Masks and face coverings for the coronavirus pandemic

Fully vaccinated people can now unmask outdoors in certain situations. But always carry a mask with you.

When to wear a mask

If you are fully vaccinated you can begin to do some activities without a mask on. You can exercise alone outdoors, or gather with small groups of vaccinated friends.

You are fully vaccinated 2 weeks after your final dose.

You still need a face covering to go into a store or business, and if you are in a crowd outdoors. You should always have a face covering with you, even if you are vaccinated. 

Wearing a face covering reduces your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. People who are not vaccinated, must still wear a mask outdoors if you cannot stay at least 6 feet apart from others. Wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose. Make sure it fits snugly around your face.

Places masks are required

You will not be allowed to go into a business, public building, or on public transportation if you are not wearing a face covering.

At businesses

Face coverings are required when you are:

  • Leaving your table at an outdoor dining area to go inside 
  • Shopping at a store
  • Working out at an indoor gym
  • Seeking healthcare (including any waiting rooms)
  • Going into buildings open to the public, like laundromats, banks, and government buildings

Traveling

Face coverings are required when you are:

  • On public transportation (or waiting for it)
  • Driving or riding in a taxi or rideshare vehicle (even by yourself)

Scarves, ski masks, balaclavas, or bandanas are not allowed on any public transportation (or waiting for it). This is by CDC orderSee SF guidance on traveling on public transit.

At work

Face coverings are required when you are:

  • Working a job where you interact with others
  • Working in a space other people might use later, even if you’re alone (including cubicles, shared desks, and conference rooms)
  • Working in an area with shared equipment
  • Handling, preparing, or packaging food or other items for anyone you do not live with
  • Going into someone else’s home for work or any other reason

In spaces someone might be in later

Face coverings are required when you are in a common area inside a building, even if you’re alone. This includes:

  • Elevators
  • Hallways
  • Stairways
  • Break rooms
  • Parking lots

Where masks are not required

Face coverings are not required for everyone:

  • At home alone or with people you live with
  • Working alone in your own private office with the door closed (as long as you can put on a face covering quickly if someone enters)
  • In your car alone or if you’re only with people you live with
  • When eating or drinking alone or with people you live with, and nobody else is within 6 feet
  • Exercising outdoors alone or with people you live with, and no one else is within 6 feet

Face coverings are not required when you are fully vaccinated:

  • You are exercising outdoors alone or with members of your household
  • You are with small groups of fully vaccinated friends
  • You are with 1 unvaccinated household who is at low risk of getting COVID-19
  • You are dining outdoors

What vaccinated individuals are allowed to do continues to change, as we know more about COVID-19 and cases go down. Find more about these changes.

Organized outdoor sports teams and indoor sports teams have some exceptions.

At home

You are not required to use a face covering at home. But if you or someone at home is sick, use a face covering to reduce exposure.

If you live with someone who is unvaccinated and at higher risk from COVID-19, everyone at home should wear a face covering when around others, if possible.

Call your healthcare provider if you or someone in your home is sick. See more information about getting healthcare during the pandemic.

Certain groups are not required to wear a mask, but should use other options

Children

Children under 2 years old must not wear face coverings. They might suffocate.

Children 2 to 9 years old must wear face coverings for in-person school, youth programs, and childcare programs. In other situations, they must wear face coverings if they can. They can wear alternative face coverings (like a double-layered gaiter) if they will be more likely to wear them. They should not be refused any service if they can’t wear face coverings, but you should encourage them to wear them or consider not taking them out where there are other people.  You must watch them to make sure they are using them correctly and safely.

Children 10 and over must wear face coverings, like adults do.

Health and safety reasons

If you have a physical, intellectual, or developmental disability that prevents you from wearing a face covering, you do not have to wear one.

If you are deaf and use facial and mouth movements as part of communication, you can remove your mask while communicating.

Anyone who has trouble breathing, or is not able to take off a face covering without help, should not wear one. You do not have to wear a face covering if you have a letter from a medical professional saying you do not need to wear one because of your condition.

If you can’t wear a medical or fabric mask, use other options

You are still required to wear something over your nose and mouth to block droplets, such as a gaiter with 2 layers.

If you will create a safety hazard at work (under established health and safety guidelines) by wearing anything on your face, you do not have to wear one. 

If you have signed documentation showing a medical professional has told you not to wear a face covering of any kind, you do not have to wear one. The document does not need to explain your medical condition. The documentation should include the contact and license information of the medical professional.

The best mask is one you wear consistently and correctly

When to double mask

Double masking is not always better than single masking, especially if you have a very high quality, effective single mask or N95 respirator. 

Double masking might be more protective than single masking, if:

  • The top mask helps the bottom mask fit more tightly on your face
  • You use 2 masks made from different materials (one mask may capture particles the other doesn’t)

Read more about how to make your mask fit better.

When to wear an N-95

Properly fitted N95 masks offer additional protection from the COVID-19 virus. It can filter particles better than other masks. 

But to keep you from getting COVID-19, the N-95 must fit tightly around your face. It will be harder to breathe in it. It’s also not designed for children. 

If you feel worse wearing an N95 mask, do not wear one.

If you are not vaccinated, consider wearing an N-95 when when you are:

  • At higher risk of severe illness if you get COVID-19
  • Indoors or outdoors close to unmasked people (like dining or personal services)
  • Indoors with lots of masked people (like grocery store clerks or bus drivers)
  • Going indoors where there are or were unmasked people (like janitors, hotel room service)

Read more about N95 use.

What not to use

A face covering can be made of cloth, fabric, or other breathable material, but it should not have holes. 

The following do not comply with the order:

  • Halloween or plastic masks
  • Ski masks with holes for the nose or mouth
  • Masks that have a one-way valve designed for easier breathing (often a raised plastic disk about the size of a quarter, on the front or side of the mask)

Holes or one-way valves allow droplets out of the mask, exposing people nearby. If you wear one, you should wear another face covering on top that doesn’t have valves.

Keep it clean

If you’re outside your home and your face covering gets wet, have another face covering ready to replace it.

Face coverings should be washed frequently. Ideally, wash them after each use in the warmest water possible and dry on the highest heat setting and leave in the dryer until completely dry.

Clean your hands before and after touching your face, or face coverings.

The CDC has instructions on how to wear and clean your face covering

More information

Last updated May 08, 2021