Masks and face coverings for the coronavirus pandemic

In general, wear something to cover your face when you leave your home.

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When you must wear a face covering

You must wear a face covering when you are within 6 feet from people who don’t live with you. You will not be allowed to go into a business or public transportation if you are not wearing a face covering.

Face coverings are required when you are:

  • Waiting to be seated at an outdoor dining area, or whenever you leave your table (you don’t need to wear it while eating)
  • Waiting in line to go inside a store
  • Shopping at a store
  • On public transportation (or waiting for it)
  • Driving or riding in a taxi or rideshare vehicle (even by yourself)
  • Seeking healthcare
  • Going into facilities allowed to stay open, like laundromats, banks, and government buildings
  • In a common area inside a building, like an elevator, hallway, stairway, or parking lot
  • Working a job where you interact with others
  • 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
  • Walking or running outside and you see someone within 30 feet (about the length of a Muni bus)

As San Francisco reopens, more people will be outside. By putting on your face covering when you are walking and see someone at 30 feet away, both of you will have enough time to put on your face coverings if you get close to each other.

When a face covering is not needed

Face coverings are not required when:

  • At home (if you are not around someone at higher risk from COVID-19)
  • Working alone in a private office (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
  • Sitting or standing outside alone or with people you live with (such as picnicking outside) and you are more than 6 feet from others 
  • When eating or drinking alone or with people you live with, and nobody else is within 6 feet
  • Exercising outdoors alone or with people who live with you (walking, hiking, bicycling, or running) and no one else is within 30 feet

You should still have a face covering with you. It should be visible and readily accessible when you’re exercising, like hanging around your neck. There might be times where you cannot avoid being around other people. 

You should put on your face covering if you see someone within 30 feet of you (about the length of a Muni bus). That way, both of you will have enough time to put on your face coverings if you get close to each other.

If a mask is too tight, try a looser fitting option like a gaiter or bandana.

At home

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


Children under 2 years old must not wear a face covering. They may suffocate.

Children 3 to 12 years old are not required to wear a face covering. If they do, they should be supervised by an adult. Supervision may look different based on the age and maturity of the child.

Health and safety reasons

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

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. If you have a chronic respiratory condition, you should get documentation from a medical professional.

If you have documentation showing a medical professional has told you not to wear a face covering, you do not have to wear one.

What not to use

A face covering can be made of cloth, fabric, or other permeable 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 (the valves are 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, putting others nearby at risk.  

You can make your own face covering

Face coverings can be made of a variety of fabrics. You can use bandanas, scarves, t-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels. They should cover your nose and mouth.

The CDC has simple instructions on how to make your own face covering without having to sew. All you need is an old T-shirt, or a bandana with 2 rubber bands or hair ties.

Keep it clean

If you’re outside your home and your face covering gets wet, keep wearing it. It will still protect others.

Face coverings should be washed frequently. Ideally, wash them after each use and have a dedicated laundry bag or bin. 

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

Save masks for healthcare workers on the front lines

N-95 and surgical masks are in short supply, and need to be saved for health workers on the frontlines. We are managing our supply levels closely and providing those workers with appropriate PPE.

If you are currently using a medical mask, keep using it as long as you can. Only throw it away when it gets dirty or damaged.

Staying home is still the best protection

Covering your face does not change the shelter in place order. You still need to stay home as much as possible and staying 6 feet from others.

Why this is a requirement: face coverings protect others

Cloth face coverings may prevent transmission of coronavirus by reducing respiratory droplets. COVID-19 can be spread by people who are not showing symptoms. If everyone wears a face covering, we minimize transmission for everyone.

Covering your face is about helping others. By covering your face when you go out, you are being a good neighbor and community member.

Donating face coverings and masks

Donate face coverings and medical supplies at Give2SF. You can also make a tax-deductible contribution towards the City’s coronavirus response. 

We can also accept medical supplies for healthcare workers and first responders. We are currently only accepting donations in specific quantities and criteria.

Businesses must require face coverings

Business must require face coverings for employees and customers. See details about operating a business during the pandemic.

Businesses must also provide their staff with face coverings. See shops that are selling PPE.

See official health orders

Order of the Health Officer No. C19-12b (May 28, 2020), requiring face coverings when you leave your home.

Order of the Health Officer No. C19-12 (April 17, 2020), requiring face coverings when shopping, getting healthcare, or taking transit.

Last updated June 30, 2020