San Francisco offices and gyms get stay of state mask tenure as California clarifies rules

San Francisco offices and gyms where everyone is fully vaccinated will not need to revert to masking, after California clarified on Tuesday where its new universal face mask rule applies, granting a stay on the face mask. city.

“This refinement recognizes the hard work of San Francisco residents throughout the pandemic, including how we have maintained reasonable protections ahead of the holiday season,” the San Francisco Department of Public Health said in a statement. communicated.

The news came just as Bay Area businesses were preparing – with weary resignation – for a return of masking after the state announced a new indoors mandate on Monday.

San Francisco health official Dr Susan Philip said the state, in allowing local jurisdictions to maintain local mask exemptions for certain settings, recognizes the efforts places like San Francisco have made throughout pandemic to control the spread.

These settings are “stable cohorts” of 100 people or less where everyone is fully immunized. They include offices, gymnasiums, fitness centers, employee commuter vehicles, religious gatherings, indoor college classes, or other gatherings of people that meet regularly.

“We appreciate seeing this clarification from colleagues at DPH. It’s an acknowledgment of all the thought and care the residents of San Francisco have put into staying as safe as possible, ”said Philip.

“We have been careful since we saw the delta indications,” she said. “We had this general indoor masking requirement that is in place. And we’ve dug out smaller areas where we think it’s a more controlled environment. We have put in place many other safeguards in areas where masks are removed. We believe that with those in place, it is reasonable to allow removal of face covers within these settings. “

As of Tuesday evening, it was not immediately clear which other counties the state might also grant exemptions to, including Marin, Alameda and Contra Costa counties, but San Francisco officials believed some other counties would also be included in the counties. exemptions. Marin had lifted most indoor masking requirements for those vaccinated, and Contra Costa County had lifted the requirements for offices and gyms where people were fully vaccinated.

The state’s new rule, which will require all Californians to wear masks indoors from Wednesday until January 15, came as officials braced for a winter wave brought on by the delta variant and were suspicious of the threat of the potentially even more contagious omicron variant on the horizon.

San Francisco will not be exempt from other parts of the state’s new COVID orders: People attending mega-events of 1,000 or more that do not require vaccination must now show proof of a negative test taken during the day for an antigen test, and within two days for a PCR test. (Previously it was 72 hours.)

And San Francisco, like other California jurisdictions, will encourage arriving travelers to get tested three to five days after arrival, regardless of their vaccination status.

The news that San Francisco did not have to change its current masking rule brought immediate jubilation and relief to the business community.

“The San Francisco Independent Fitness Studio Coalition could not be more pleased with the state’s decline in mask ordering,” said Dave Karraker, co-owner of MX3 Fitness in San Francisco and spokesperson for the coalition. He credited Philips with going to bat for the industry.

“To have even the slightest disruption in the progress we’ve made over the past 18 months to win back clients would have been devastating,” he said, adding that some fitness studios have already started seeing people suspend their subscriptions. because of the expected mandate. The potential of losing New Years Resolution cases “can literally make or break a small neighborhood gym,” he said.

Some companies were already adapting to the new state rules.

Since Tuesday, Apple has required masking in all of its U.S. stores, spokesperson Nick Leahy said in an email.

“We will adjust our sanitary measures in stores to promote the well-being of customers and employees,” he said. “Amid the increase in cases in many communities, we now require all customers to join our team members in wearing masks when they visit our stores.”

Some workplaces, like Mountain View’s cloud-based software company Egnyte, had holiday parties in person, but with attendees wearing masks.

“Our reality of being in the office is not altered by the mask’s tenure,” Egnyte founder Vineet Jain said, adding that about 75 of Mountain View’s 175 employees had RSVP to attend the party plus late this week; the company has already organized holiday parties online.

A survey on the Blind website, which allows employees to discuss their business anonymously, found an almost even split among more than 100 tech and other industry workers, with a slight majority supporting the return of the inside masking mandate . The poll was conducted before the San Francisco exemptions were announced.

But for many workers in and around the Bay Area, masking is already a reality.

Chase DiFeliciantonio, Ryan Kost and Catherine Ho are the editors of the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] [email protected] [email protected]

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