Major new San Francisco health order requires masks or face coverings outside

People in San Francisco must wear a face covering outside in most circumstances under a major new health order announced Thursday, as the city paves a path toward reopening.

Under the new mandate, which is scheduled to take effect at 11:59 p.m. Friday, face coverings are now generally required — with a few exceptions — when someone is exercising within 30 feet of another person, walking past someone else on a sidewalk or preparing food or other items for people who are not part of their household.

The rules, which extend and expand existing orders that require people to wear masks indoors at shops and other establishments, are bound to be difficult to enforce and cause tension between residents who wear coverings and those who for various reasons do not. But officials contend it’s necessary to curb the spread of the coronavirus as they loosen shelter-in-place orders and residents undertake more activities.

“As we begin to reopen, it is going to be more important than ever that people cover their faces when they are outside the home,” Mayor London Breed said. “With more people moving about, we are tempting the virus to spread, and we need to do everything we can to stop that from happening.”

Coverings are also required for anyone working at or seeking goods or services from most businesses and government agencies.

The coverings should go over a person’s nose and mouth and fit securely. During a news conference Thursday, Breed said that businesses are encouraged to turn away people who do not mask up.

The exceptions include when someone is alone in a private office; driving in a car alone or with people in their household; alone or with members of their household in an outdoor area like parks and not within 6 feet of anyone else; and eating or drinking if they are alone or only with members of their household without anyone else being within 6 feet.

Children younger than 12 and people with documented medical exceptions or other conditions that prevent them from wearing a face covering are also exempt.

Joggers or other exercisers who are not within 30 feet of other people are not required to wear a face covering, but they must have it with them in a visible place, ready for use if they get close to someone else.

In early April, city officials recommended face coverings before requiring that they be worn for all essential businesses and in public facilities, on transit and while doing essential work.

“Wearing a mask, or other face covering, is one of the top three things you can do to help us reopen more, and reopen sooner,” Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax said in a statement.

San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Lauren Hernández contributed to this report.

Alejandro Serrano is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @serrano_alej

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