San Francisco Nears Yellow Tier; Mask Mandates to Relax

  • San Francisco may enter the less restrictive yellow tier next week, paving the way for a further easing of restrictions

  • Most San Franciscans are at least partially vaccinated, and use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will resume following a two-week pause

  • California is relaxing mask mandates, saying that vaccinated people can ditch their masks for small outdoor gatherings, among other relaxed restrictions

San Francisco is poised to enter the "yellow" tier as soon as next week, marking a milestone in a gradual return to normalcy.


Under the state's guidelines, counties in the yellow tier can open restaurants, gyms, houses of worship and other indoor venues at 50% capacity, among other expanded activities. But San Francisco's Department of Public Health will have the final say in what activities are permitted locally and when.


San Francisco met the qualifications for the yellow tier this week, according to state metrics released today, but must hold those qualifications for two consecutive weeks before formally entering the less restrictive tier. San Francisco's adjusted case rate sits at 1.8%, and 61% of San Franciscans of all ages are at least partially vaccinated. 40% of all San Franciscans are fully vaccinated, along with 45% of those over age 16 and 72% over age 65.

Following a two-week pause in use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Bay Area counties issued a joint statement on Sunday recommending that local health providers resume use of the single-dose vaccine, albeit with a warning label if deemed appropriate.


The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been linked to an "extremely low" risk of blood clots, with one Bay Area patient and 15 patients nationwide showing that side effect. About 8 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been administered in the U.S., according to the CDC.


Meanwhile, California has said that it will relax mask mandates in the state in line with the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention's recently updated guidance.


Under the updated guidance, people can walk or exercise outdoors with members of their own household without a mask; and if vaccinated, people can also ditch their masks for small outdoor gatherings. Masks are still encouraged both for indoor gatherings and large, crowded outdoor events.


"With science and data as our guide, we are moving to align California's guidance with these common-sense updates,'' said California Governor Gavin Newsom in a statement on Tuesday.


San Francisco's DPH said on Tuesday that once the state formally adopts the new mask guidelines, it will do so as well.

Image by Jake Buonemani
Image by Rasmus Gundorff Sæderup
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