San Francisco schools can loosen social distancing but must continue to require indoor masks regardless of a person’s vaccination status when schools reopen next month, San Francisco Health Officer Dr. Susan Philip said Friday.
The announcement comes after the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control Prevention earlier on Friday released newly updated guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19 for in-person learning at K-12 schools nationwide.
The CDC’s new guidelines recommend indoor mask wearing only for those who have not been fully vaccinated. Additionally, outdoor mask usage won’t be required, but is recommended for those who haven’t been vaccinated during crowded outdoor settings.
The CDC also recommends that only when possible, schools adhere to at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms.
In the guidelines, the CDC emphasizes the use of multiple layers of preventions strategies at schools on top of mask usage for those who haven’t been vaccinated and social distancing when possible, including screen testing, adequate ventilation, handwashing, and staying home when sick, among other strategies.
With continued low COVID-19 case rates in San Francisco and 75 percent of all residents over the age of 12 currently having full vaccination status, Philips said the city won’t require social distancing inside classrooms in the fall.
Masks indoors, however, will continue to be required indoors for all, but not outdoors, she said.
“As Health Officer, I am prioritizing indoor masking over physical distancing to ensure a safe return to school for all our children,” she said.
In addition to the mask mandate, the city’s Department of Public Health will also require all schools to encourage washing hands and using hand sanitizer; increase ventilation; and encourage students to screen for COVID-19 symptoms at home.
Additionally, SFDPH will continue case investigation and contact tracing policies, Philips said.
“I urge school administrators, teachers, staff, and families in San Francisco to work together to prepare for full classrooms for all grades next school year. We look forward to seeing students, teachers and staff fully return to school in August.”
Although most San Francisco elementary schools reopened at some point during the last school year, only private and parochial high schools and middle schools reopened last school year. This fall will be the first time San Francisco Unified School District high schools and middle schools will reopen to most students in over a year and a half.