Most people out on the streets of The City will be required to wear a face covering as part of new coronavirus restrictions during the shelter-in-place, officials said Friday.
People traveling outside their homes for essential outings like grocery runs or those still allowed to work must wear a mask of some kind starting midnight Friday. Officials won’t enforce the latest public health order until Wednesday but ask that those who have a mask or some type of covering to start using it immediately.
“Anytime you’re indoors or within close proximity withing an essential business or at work…you will be required to wear a mask,” said Mayor London Breed. “The requirement to wear face coverings does not take the place of social distancing.”
The new requirement does not apply to those out for a walk, jog or bicycle ride and also applies to other parts of the Bay Area like Sonoma County. Personal protective gear like N95 masks is discouraged as they remain in short supply for frontline healthcare workers. Instead, cloth masks, scarves, and other homemade fabric covering the nose and mouth are encouraged.
San Francisco has 1,058 cases and 20 deaths as of Friday morning. The first known case in San Francisco County Jail came yesterday as the City has been preparing for an outbreak by reducing the prison population by 35 percent since January.
Public health director Dr. Grant Colfax warned that face coverings will be the new normal and that people will become used to the practice by instituting it now.
“It is likely that we will need to continue to do this for some time, even after we start to emerge from our homes,” Colfax said. “This will help us now and it will help us in the future. The virus is still out there so we must continue to be vigilant.”
It turns The City’s earlier recommendation to wear a face covering into a requirement, as informed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in early April. Federal health officials previously discouraged the broad public from wearing masks or personal protective equipment to be reserved for frontline healthcare workers.
Breed asked that people refrain from confronting people who don’t appear to be in compliance, and to leave it to officials to correct their behavior.
“If you’re not a police officer, don’t act like one,” Breed said. “Please do your part to follow the order and worry about what you need to do and not what someone else is doing.”
San Franciscans were previously required to wear masks during the 1918 flu pandemic. “Mask slackers” were fined or even thrown in county jail, sister publication SF Weekly recounted.