A Week Later, SF Officials Say It's OK to Be Outside Without a Mask

A week after the CDC updated its official guidance with regard to being outdoors — where COVID transmission risk is already extremely low —  San Francisco health officials have updated theirs.

It's now OK to go out walking or biking or jogging without a mask on, San Francisco says, whether or not you're fully vaccinated, and as long as you're not in a crowded space. Acting Health Officer Dr. Susan Philip issued the new official city rules late Monday.

"The CDC’s announcement that fully vaccinated, and in some instances unvaccinated, people no longer need to wear masks in certain outdoor settings is fantastic news that reflects the science and data we now have on the efficacy of the vaccines in preventing community spread and driving down case rates and the minimal risk of transmission outdoors," Dr. Philip said in a statement. She said the city would be following the lead of the state in adopting similar guidelines, and some official policy changes would still "take several days."

Basically everyone can stop with the awkward mask theater while on sidewalks, she says. For the fully vaccinated, you can mostly be outside without a mask now, full stop!

"These changes mean fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people can forgo mask-wearing while engaging in outdoor activities such as walking, running, hiking or biking alone or with members of the same household," Dr. Philip says. "And, you will no longer need to pull up your mask when simply passing others by on a sidewalk or trail as the transient passing of people is not a risk of transmission. For anyone who is fully vaccinated, a face covering will no longer be required outdoors unless a more specific rule requires it, such as at a large sporting event."

And, she repeats, "Because their risk level is significantly lower, vaccinated people now have more latitude and do not need to wear a mask for most outdoor activities other than those that are crowded."

Also, the "Yellow" tier changes for SF are expected to kick on Friday, and she says, "After we reach the state’s yellow tier, fully vaccinated people can also dine outdoors at a restaurant with friends from multiple households without masks."

Masks are still mandatory for everyone in indoor settings, so you'll need to have one in your pocket or purse — but you don't need to have it on from the moment you step out your front door anymore. Only when entering "a store, restaurant, gym, salon, or movie theater — any place where the vaccination status of other people is unknown."

And Dr. Philip added that she hopes the change in rules will be "further incentive for people to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible."

"San Francisco has done an amazing job throughout this pandemic because of everyone’s commitment to following the health guidelines," Dr. Philip says. "Let’s keep up the good work so we can continue to reopen our City and resuming the activities we love."

SF's status change to the "Yellow" tier is expected to come at noon Tuesday.

Previously: CDC Updates Mask Rules for the Vaccinated; San Francisco Rules TBA

Photo: Sand Crain