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UPDATE: State Allows San Francisco to Maintain Existing COVID Masking Rules

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Health officials in San Francisco on Tuesday announced that the California Department of Public Health would allow the city to keep its existing mask mandate in place.

State health officials on Monday confirmed that an alarming increase in COVID-19 case rates would lead California to reinstitute an indoor mask mandate and other restrictions starting December 15.

According to San Francisco officials, the CDPH's latest release on plans to reestablish the statewide indoor COVID masking mandate due to rising COVID case rates attributed to spread from the Omicron and Delta variants stated that the "CDPH will allow counties like San Francisco, which have kept masking in place for most indoor settings since August in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, to maintain their existing health orders around masking."

Info from CADPH: Renewed Mask Mandate | Travel Advisory 

"This refinement acknowledges the hard work of the people of San Francisco throughout the pandemic, including the ways in which we have maintained reasonable protections heading into the holiday season," the statement issued by the SFDPH read. "This means that stable cohorts of 100% fully vaccinated people in select settings like workspaces and gyms will continue to be allowed to remove masks when the necessary safety measures have been met. Other aspects of the City's health order requiring indoor masking in most indoor public settings remain in effect."

Only Solano and Marin counties among Bay Area counties don't currently have an indoor mask mandate in place. The statewide mandate will have much more of an impact outside the region.

The San Francisco Department of Public Health Twitter account on Monday posted that the city would comply with the new requirements for indoor masking going into effect on Wednesday.

"Indoor masking in SF will largely go unchanged, however we are suspending exemptions for work settings and gyms," the statement said.

The mandate drew a mixed reaction from the front lines in the battle against the virus.

UC-San Francisco Infectious Disease expert Dr. Monica Gandhi believes any new restrictions imposed should be based on local vaccination rates and hospitalizations, not the state count of cases.

"What's on my mind is trust," she told KPIX 5. "The trust of us as a population to believe our public health officials are following science."

Gandhi points to Marin County, where for the last month mask mandates were lifted and hospitalizations remained very low. She also draws similar conclusions from Southern California.

"OC (Orange County) did not mask," she said. "L.A. did. Zero difference in cases and hospitalizations because they had the same vaccination rate, which proves how strong vaccination is and how powerful an intervention it is over masking."

Health officials said San Francisco will be updating its main order by Wednesday to conform to changes being made on a statewide level this week regarding testing for children under 12 in mega-event settings and with other minor refinements.

"We will continue following the data especially around severe disease/hospitalizations and will make further adjustments to San Francisco's health order if needed," the statement said. Residents were asked to refer to other changes in state requirements around testing for mega-events, and recommendations for travelers returning to the state on the California Department of Public Health website.

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