San Francisco's Acting Health Officer Dr. Susan Philip on Monday called a recent decision by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to do away with masks outdoors "fantastic news" as the city also prepares to lift more restrictions with a move into the COVID-19 yellow tier this week.
The CDC's new guidelines, which are being backed by the California Department of Public Health, allow residents to forgo masks in most outdoor settings and come as more and more residents are getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
“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. We welcome the state's decision to adopt these common-sense guidelines and we hope it further incentivizes people to get vaccinated as soon as possible," Philip said in a statement.
“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. 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," she said. "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. For people who are not fully vaccinated, a face covering must be worn if physical distancing cannot be maintained."
Despite the updates, masks will still be required at large events or in crowded settings with 300 people or more in attendance.
Additionally, vaccinated residents attending small indoor gatherings with other vaccinated people need not wear masks, however, mask use is still encouraged at gatherings with people who haven't yet been vaccinated.
"We all still need to keep our masks handy as they should be worn outside if you are unvaccinated and cannot easily maintain 6-feet distance; in settings where other rules still require masking outdoors; as soon as you go inside to most business settings; or in large group settings such as outdoor music festivals or sporting events, including in fully vaccinated sections," Philip said. "While you may be able to walk to a destination without one, you'll need to put your mask on when you enter an indoor public space such as a store, restaurant, gym, salon, or movie theater -- any place where the vaccination status of other people is unknown. The federal masking requirements for public transportation will still apply, so you will need to wear your mask while waiting for and while riding public transit."
Philip said the city is planning to provide more details on the changes and updating city health orders to reflect the new changes within the coming days.
The city remains in the orange tier of the state's COVID-19 reopening guidelines, but Philip said the city could enter the yellow tier later this week, possibly as early as Thursday.
According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health, so far, 72% of all San Franciscans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
More information can be found at www.sf.gov/masks.