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Hygiene and masks

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COVID-19 spreads primarily between people who are in close contact with one another. Droplets from someone with COVID-19 can be transferred to others through coughing, sneezing or talking and touching your face with hands that have the virus on them.

Mask requirements

  • Changes to health orders and recommendations may be updated as health officers follow the science and the data to evaluate whether additional protective measures may be needed as the virus evolves and if future surges occur.
  • Bay Area health officers, in alignment with CDPH, continue to strongly recommend masks be used as an effective tool to prevent the spread of the virus, especially when case rates are high, or when additional personal protection is needed.
  • Continuing to mask in indoor public settings, especially in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces, remains the safest choice for an individual and protects those who are medically vulnerable or are not able to get vaccinated, such as our youngest children.

Masks will continue to be required for everyone in certain public settings

Indoor masking is still required by the state for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, in health care settings, correctional facilities, detention centers, homeless shelters, long-term care facilities, emergency shelters, and cooling and heating centers.

Though masking is no longer required on public transportation and in K-12 schools and childcare settings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health strongly recommend the use of masks in these settings.

Ways to prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death

Staying “up to date” on vaccinations, meaning primary series and boosters when eligible, remains the most important way to prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death.

Other steps:

  • People should continue to choose well-fitted layered masks. See types or masks and respirators here (N95 or double layer cloth over surgical are best).
  • Staying home and testing when experiencing symptoms.
  • Testing before gatherings.
  • Improving indoor ventilation along with these strategies can provide additional protection.

Information for business owners, venue operators and hosts

Businesses, venue operators and hosts may determine their own paths forward to protect staff and patrons and may choose to require all patrons to wear masks.

  • No person can be prevented from wearing a mask as a condition of participation in an activity or entry into a business.

Workplaces will continue to follow the COVID-19 prevention standards set by Cal/OSHA.

You can chose to continue wearing a mask

People can continue to choose to wear face coverings around others whether it’s mandated or not and should respect people’s choices around their health.

Community members who are fully vaccinated and choose not to mask should respect the choices of those who continue to mask. Officials ask residents and visitors to be kind and respectful as people evaluate their risks and make choices to protect themselves and those around them.

Assess your own COVID risk

If you are in a higher-risk group because of your age, vaccination status or an underlying health condition, you need to be aware of the risks you are exposed to every time you gather with strangers, particularly indoors where the virus is easily transmitted. Assess your risk and take action to protect yourself. The best thing you can do is get vaccinated and boosted, if eligible. The next best option is to avoid non-essential gatherings until we see further reductions in transmission. If you must gather in public, wear a good mask and maintain social distance.

Exemptions to mask requirements 

The following individuals are exempt from wearing masks at all times:

  • Persons younger than two years old. Very young children must not wear a mask because of the risk of suffocation.
  • Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a mask. This includes persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a mask could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a mask without assistance.
  • Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
  • Persons for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.

Practice personal hygiene

  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you don’t have soap or water, you can use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue. Wash or sanitize your hands afterward.