Officials in San Francisco recently announced that they will be easing mask requirements in the city for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The eased restrictions will remain in effect as long as case counts and hospitalizations rates remain stable or decline.
Starting October 15, masking requirements will be eased for offices, gyms, religious gatherings, indoor college classes, and other settings with up to 100 people who are fully vaccinated against COVID.
People in those settings may remove their face masks if the employer or host can meet certain criteria, including:
- They can control access and verify that everyone in attendance is fully vaccinated
- They can ensure there is proper ventilation
- They can verify that there have been no recent COVID-19 outbreaks
- They can confirm that there are no children under age 12 present
Prevention Pays Off
In a press release on October 7, San Fransisco Mayor London Breed said that they are “excited” that the city is at a place where they can start easing making requirements.
Breed said that the decision is “the direct result of the fact that we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, our cases have fallen, and our residents have done their part to keep themselves and those around them safe.”
Amesh A. Adalja, MD
Hopefully, more places will follow suit based on the epidemiology of where transmission is occurring.
Breed said that easing the requirement is an “important step forward for San Francisco, particularly for our downtown.”
When out in the community, Breed said that employees and business leaders often said that “they’re anxious to get back to a more normal routine at work where they can interact with their colleagues.”
With the city’s economy “bouncing back,” Breed said that it “feels like it [the city] is coming alive again,” and easing masking requirements is “yet another milestone in our recovery.”
Where Masking Will Still Be Required
The city’s indoor mask mandate will remain in effect for some situations, including:
- In all areas that are accessed by the general public, including inside retail stores, building elevators, lobbies, and bathrooms.
- Indoor masks will also continue to be required in bars and restaurants except when people are actively eating or drinking, or unless the proof of vaccination requirements can be met.
- Under state or federal laws, like on public transportation, in hospitals, jails, homeless shelters, and schools.
According to government data, 83% of eligible San Franciscans and 75% of the city’s population are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The city currently has a seven-day rolling average of 78 new cases a day.
What Experts Say
Infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, MD, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Get Meds Info that lifting the requirement in San Fransisco is a “good decision,” and that “hopefully, more places will follow suit based on the epidemiology of where transmission is occurring.”
Adalja says that the main risk of transmitting COVID-19 comes from unvaccinated people—not people who are fully vaccinated. It’s fairly safe for a group of fully vaccinated people to be indoors together, and Adalja says that it’s “only in rare circumstances that a fully vaccinated person can transmit” the virus.
Richard Watkins, MD,
It is naive to assume people will be honest when being dishonest can make things more convenient for them.
Richard Watkins, MD, an infectious disease physician and a Professor of Internal Medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, tells Get Meds Info that he is concerned about how the new policy will actually be enforced.
“How is vaccine status going to be ascertained? It is naive to assume people will be honest when being dishonest can make things more convenient for them,” says Watkins.
While the easing of mask mandates is not widespread yet, other states and cities may take a similar approach if their case counts and hospitalizations start to drop.
“If we see repeated and sustained evidence that the pandemic is waning, then it will be appropriate to follow this path,” says Watkins, adding “I don’t think we have seen enough of a decline in COVID-19 cases to make this change, especially since we know the Delta variant is so highly contagious.”
What This Means For You
If you live in the San Francisco area and are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you will soon be able to enter some public spaces without a mask. Other cities and states may adopt similar policies if their case counts go down and stay low.
The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.