Mass confusion on masks? Here's why some Bay Area counties have different rules

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The state implemented new universal indoor masking requirements for everyone, regardless of vaccination status on Wednesday. But, the rules are a bit more flexible in several Bay Area counties.

Here's why.

The state's updated guidance, which is posted online, specifically states the rules for activities and businesses advise: "masks are required for all persons, as practicable, while playing all indoor sports, exercising, or condition."

RELATED: CA's indoor mask mandate: A Bay Area guide to changes in your county

But, late Tuesday night, San Francisco County announced that rule doesn't apply to them.

"A lot of you are confused out there," said Dave Karraker, owner of MX3 Fitness. "But do not have to wear a mask if you go to a gym and you're fully vaccinated."

So why is this?

San Francisco Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax says since the city already had an existing mask mandate prior to the state's announcement, the state will allow the county to keep it. This means in San Francisco, masks are still required in restaurants and indoor businesses, but not required in places like gyms, office spaces, and places of worship - as long as you are fully vaccinated.

"There was a little bit of confusion about that," said Colfax.

And it gets more confusing. Marin County announced Wednesday it will also revert to its previous mask mandate that was lifted last month. This means if you're fully vaccinated, masks will also be optional in certain places like gyms.

VIDEO: How effective are mask mandates? Bay Area health officials are split
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As California reinstates its mask mandate, it's reignited a question of just how effective mask mandates are against the spread of the virus.



Mike Wasserman sat on California's vaccine advisory committee and advised the state during the pandemic. He says there should've been more consistency with the state's messaging.

"From the public's perspective, if there was consistency people would have more confidence," said Wasserman. "Rather than what seems like more of a whack-a-mole approach."

ABC7 reached out to the state to see if other counties will be allowed a similar exemption, like Marin County. Our team received the following statement:

Specifically, for current policy on local exemptions: "For local health jurisdictions that had pre-existing masking requirements irrespective of vaccine status, in indoor public settings, prior to December 13, 2021, those local health orders continue to apply" and any associated exemptions or additional requirements included in those local orders would then also continue to apply."

Other exemptions

Additionally, exceptions to the universal masking requirements apply in the following circumstances in specified settings:

  • Masks may be removed while actively eating or drinking.
  • Persons who are working alone in a closed office or room.
  • Persons who are actively performing at indoor live or recorded settings or events such as music, acting, or singing. If performers do not wear a mask indoors while performing, CDPH strongly recommends that individuals undergo screening testing at least once weekly. An FDA-approved antigen test, PCR test, or pooled PCR test is acceptable for evaluation of an individual's COVID-19 status.
  • Persons who are obtaining a medical or cosmetic service involving the nose or face for which temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the services.
  • Workers who wear respiratory protection, per CalOSHA requirements.
  • Persons who are specifically exempted from wearing masks by other CDPH guidance.


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