San Francisco children in youth sports programs who have received all COVID-19 vaccine doses for which they are eligible will be allowed to remove their masks during indoor practices under new guidance from the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
The guidance, which took effect Tuesday, applies to children who are at least two weeks past completing their initial vaccination series as well as one week past receiving a booster vaccine dose, if they are eligible.
A handful of requirements beyond vaccination must also be met before student-athletes can remove their masks during indoor practices, according to the SFDPH, including that the group regularly meets during the course of a season; there are no spectators or other guests in the practice space at the same time; and that there are no children in attendance under 5 years old.
Masks will still be required during competitions with other teams or groups, according to the updated guidance. Vaccination statuses must also be verified and made available to city officials upon request.
City health officials also updated quarantine guidance for children in childcare programs who test positive for the virus but remain asymptomatic.
Children age 2 and up who have tested positive but remain asymptomatic can return to their childcare program if they test negative after just 5 days of quarantine rather than the previously required 10 days.
The guidance mirrors quarantine and testing protocol already in place for K-12 students. Children who are exposed to the virus at their childcare program and are asymptomatic will also no longer be required to isolate, provided that they test negative at least twice in five days with at least 36 hours between the two tests.
City health officials argued the changes to isolation and quarantine guidance for childcare will keep young children safe while also reducing the potential for disruptions when children are forced to miss more than a week of care after testing positive.
“We recognize that the Omicron surge has been especially difficult for families of young children,” city Health Officer Dr. Susan Philip said in a statement. “The vast majority of COVID-19 cases in this age group are mild, and we look forward to soon offering vaccines to this group to add the last layer of protection pending federal and state reviews and approvals.”
For youth sports programs, the city will continue to recommend — but not require — the use of face masks outdoors. Student-athletes are still required to wear masks indoors when not actively participating in a sport or activity.
The city’s full guidance for childcare, day camps and youth sports and other activities can be found at https://www.sfdph.org/dph/files/ig/Programs-for-Children-and-Youth.pdf.