KN95 masks and nitrile gloves on January 26, 2022. The masks and gloves have been PPE staples during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Ray Saint Germain/Bay City News)

Despite San Francisco lifting indoor mask mandates for most settings later this month in accordance with the state’s latest guidelines, city officials on Thursday said masks inside city buildings will still be strongly recommended.

Earlier this week, state officials lifted the indoor mask requirements for unvaccinated people and schools, with city officials following suit and announcing indoor masks won’t be required within city facilities starting on March 18.

City facilities include City Hall, public libraries, recreation centers, department offices, and other sites operated by the city.

In spite of the mask requirement being lifted, the city will still strongly recommend that people continue to wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status, as a way to stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect people vulnerable to the virus.

Furthermore, masks will still be required at public hearings when in session, such as Board of Supervisors meetings. Such public meetings were only accessible virtually to the public since the start of the pandemic, however, the public will once again be able to attend in-person meetings starting next week, according to city officials.

Also, under the updated state guidelines, mask requirements for K-12 schools will be lifted starting on March 12, although local governments and school districts will be able to set their own mask policies. Officials with the San Francisco Unified School District have said the district won’t be making changes to its masking requirements after March 11.

The changes mark the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began that both unvaccinated people and students will be allowed to remove their masks indoors.

Back in October, the city previously lifted a mask mandate for some indoor settings, like gyms and offices, so long as people showed proof of vaccination. However, on Dec. 29, the city rescinded that exemption as COVID cases skyrocketed locally due to the highly contagious omicron variant.

Then on Feb. 1, as omicron cases subsided, city officials once again lifted the mask requirement for offices and gyms.

Regardless of the new state guidelines, masks are still required inside health care settings and congregate settings like jails, homeless shelters, long-term care facilities, and on public transit. In addition, private businesses and venues can opt to adopt more restrictive measures regarding mask use, city officials said.