FAQs for Universal Indoor Face Covering Order of Aug. 2, 2021

What is the new order?

The order requires everyone in indoor workplaces and indoor public spaces to wear face coverings, regardless of vaccination status. Face coverings can be removed for eating and drinking.

What types businesses does the order apply to?

The face covering order applies to all businesses in San Mateo County, public and private. It applies to businesses, regardless of whether or not they are accessible to the public or have public spaces.

What if I’m vaccinated?

Everyone over 2 years old must wear a face covering in indoor workplaces and indoor public settings, regardless of vaccination status.

What if I’m at a private home?

The County recommends masking but does not require it.

Are there exceptions or exemptions?

Yes, you are not required to wear a mask indoors in a restaurant, bar, or office when you are eating or drinking. Also, children younger than two years old should not wear masks because of the risk of suffocation. The order also exempts:

►Those with medical exemption written by a medical professional
► The hearing impaired or those communicating with the hearing impaired
► Children younger than 2
► When wearing a more protective piece of equipment than a face covering, such as N95 respirator
► When working alone in a closed office or room
► When swimming or showering in a fitness facility
► While receiving personal services like facials and beard trims
► In a school setting, students with medical or behavioral contraindications
► Persons who are specifically exempted from wearing face masks by other CDPH guidance  

What are the rules regarding face coverings for religious services?

The Health Order requires face coverings at indoor venues in order to prevent the spread of the Delta variant, and the Health Officer encourages everyone to use face coverings whenever possible. That said, we recognize that face coverings may make it difficult to conduct religious services. Therefore, service leaders of indoor religious gatherings may remove their face coverings while actively performing religious services. 

If they remove their face coverings, service leaders are encouraged to maintain as much distance from others as possible. Service leaders are strongly urged to be fully vaccinated, and to wear their face coverings to the greatest extent possible. Service leaders are also encouraged to provide appropriate ventilation and air purifiers in these environments. Participants in indoor religious gatherings may remove their face coverings for the limited duration necessary to participate in religious rituals but are encouraged to use face coverings whenever possible.

Live performances?

Performers may also remove face covers to the extent necessary during a live performance. Singing indoors is discouraged, and performers and their support crew, are encouraged to wear face coverings even while performing where voice projection is not necessary (for example a non-singing drummer). Persons attending the performance should wear face coverings as required by the order. Appropriate ventilation and air purification is also encouraged.

How does the San Mateo County order differ from other similar indoor face covering orders issued in the Bay Area?

San Mateo County’s Order is in line with other Bay Area counties and to the extent it differs it is less restrictive. Some jurisdictions have stricter requirements such as a mandate to mask at gatherings in a private residence. While San Mateo County agrees that the use of face coverings in such settings is recommended, we do not require it.

What does the Order require of businesses and governmental entities?

All businesses and governmental entities must enforce the face covering requirement for all personnel and for all customers or members of the public entering their facilities, regardless of vaccination status. This applies even if your business is not a public facing business or does not contain public areas. Employees sharing indoor space must be masked at any business unless they are in a closed office or eating, as noted in the exceptions to the masking mandate.

In addition, all businesses and governmental entities must post clearly visible and easy-to-read signage at all entry points for indoor settings to communicate the face covering requirements to all persons entering the facility. Sample signs are available here.

What about outdoor use of face coverings?

Although not a legal mandate, the Health Officer recommends use of face coverings, regardless of vaccination status, in crowded outdoor settings.  Face coverings are not otherwise required for normal outdoor activity.

How will the Order be enforced?

The County expects everyone to voluntarily comply with the masking ordinance for the health and safety of the community without need for undue enforcement measures. That said, violations of the mask mandate are to be reported to local law enforcement agencies for enforcement. The County will not be reinstating the business compliance unit or the online mask non-compliance reporting tool.  

What are other key recommendations from the Health Officer at this time?

While these are not legal mandates, the following are measures that will help slow and prevent the spread of Covid-19 particularly the Delta variant:

► Everyone who is eligible should get fully vaccinated as soon as possible.  Vaccination is the best way to slow or prevent transmission of the virus. For information on where to get vaccinated go to:  https://www.smchealth.org/vaccine-clinic-calendar
► The Health Officer further recommends masking in all communal indoor settings including private gatherings, but only requires it in workplaces and public spaces
► The Health Officer encourages everyone to move as many activities outdoors as possible. Avoid indoor activities that require removal of face coverings, and instead choose outdoor alternatives or avoid the activity altogether
► Wear face coverings outdoors in crowded settings

Get immediately tested if you have any symptoms of COVID-19.  Information on how to get tested is available at https://www.smcgov.org/testing

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