Indoor masking at S.F. facilities strongly encouraged despite new rules

Venues include City Hall, public libraries, recreation centers and other sites

Despite San Francisco lifting indoor mask mandates for most settings in accordance with the state’s latest guidelines, city officials said masks inside city buildings will still be strongly recommended.

Earlier last week, state officials lifted the indoor mask requirements for unvaccinated people and schools, with city officials following suit and announcing indoor masks won’t be required within city facilities starting March 18.

City facilities include City Hall, public libraries, recreation centers, department offices and other sites operated by The City.

The city will still strongly recommend people continue to wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status, as a way to stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect people vulnerable to the virus.

Masks will still be required at public hearings when in session, such as Board of Supervisors meetings. Such public meetings were only accessible virtually to the public since the start of the pandemic, however, the public will once again be able to attend in-person meetings starting next week, according to city officials.

Also, under the updated state guidelines, mask requirements for K-12 schools will be lifted starting Saturday, although local governments and school districts will be able to set their own mask policies. San Francisco Unified School District officials and its unions announced Fridaymasks will be strongly recommended but not required in middle and high schools starting March 12. The same will apply at district work sites and preschool to eighth grade starting April 2.

The changes mark the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began that both unvaccinated people and students will be allowed to remove their masks indoors.

In October, The City previously lifted a mask mandate for some indoor settings, such as gyms and offices, so long as people showed proof of vaccination. However, on Dec. 29, The City rescinded that exemption as COVID-19 cases skyrocketed locally due to the highly contagious omicron variant.

Then on Feb. 1, as omicron cases subsided, city officials once again lifted the mask requirement for offices and gyms.

Regardless of the new state guidelines, masks are still required inside health care settings and congregate settings such as jails, homeless shelters, long-term care facilities and on public transit. In addition, private businesses and venues can opt to adopt more restrictive measures regarding mask use, city officials said.

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