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SF’s New “30-Foot Rule” For Face Masks

A new complex set of guidelines for face coverings was put in place starting Saturday. Here’s what you need to know
By - posted 5/30/2020 No Comment

Thanks to the SF Chronicle for their helpful overview of the rather confusing new “30-Foot Rule” for face coverings that was introduced on Thursday.

The new rule states that you must wear a face covering if you come within 30-feet of another person, even outdoors. The rule is meant to provide you with time to put on your mask should another person approach you rapidly (such as a jogger or bicyclist). The first full day of the order is Saturday, May 30th

Learn More: Read the “30-Foot Rule” Health Order UpdateSF Chronicle has a great writeup with graphics explaining the new rule.

Why 30 Feet? According to the SF Department of Health, “The 30 feet (10 yard) distance is used here to give people adequate time to put on a Face Covering before the distance closes and the people are within six feet of each other, which puts them at greater risk for transmission of the virus. As more activities are permitted, more people will be near each other without much advance warning, making wearing a Face Covering essential when people are within 30 feet.”

Most retail in San Francisco is set to open on June 15th and shoppers must also wear a mask if they expect to enter stores. Shops are required to post signs telling people they won’t be served if they aren’t wearing a covering.

San Francisco’s 30-Foot Rule for Masks

Please note that rules are rather complicated, subject to interpretation and may change or be clarified at any time. Visit sfdph.org for the latest updates

When you must where a mask

  • When anyone (other than just members of living unit) is within 30 feet of you, whether you’re indoors or outside.
  • In the workplace (except when in a private space or area not regularly used by others)
  • Inside any shop or business or waiting in line either inside or outside
  • This 30-foot rule applies whether people are on the sidewalk, in a park, on a path or trail, or in any other outdoor area, and whether they are walking, running, biking, otherwise exercising, standing, or engaged in transportation such as using a motorcycle, skateboard, moped, or scooter.


  • Children 12 and younger are not required to wear masks
  • Children 2 and under should NOT wear a mask because of risk of suffocation.
  • When you’re in your own car alone or with members of your own family (unless there are others in the car)
  • Anyone who has a written exemption based on a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a face covering.
  • When eating/drinking as long as no one else is within 6 feet
  • If you’re within one of those new “social distance circles” in the park – i.e. if someone is sitting with only household members and they are entirely within a distancing circle that is painted on the grass in a public park or on a picnic blanket that is at least six feet from the nearest picnic blanket, a Face Covering is not required to be worn. But the individuals must have a Face Covering readily available, and anyone walking to or from the location must wear a Face Covering when within six feet of anyone else.

Learn More: Please note the rules are VERY detailed and we’ve done our best to take the complex rules and provide a synopsis of the rules but in doing so there may be nuances we have missed. For additional clarification please make sure to read the full health order for full details


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