On July 22, 2020, Health Officer Tomás J. Aragón of the City and County of San Francisco issued Public Health Emergency Order No. C19-12c, entitled, “Order of the Health Officer of the City and County of San Francisco Generally Requiring Members of the Public and Workers to Wear Face Coverings.” This order replaces San Francisco’s previous face covering order, issued on May 28, 2020, and became effective at 11:59 p.m. on July 23, 2020.

By this order, San Francisco makes clear that it expects employees to wear face coverings except in very limited circumstances. According to the order, “[e]veryone must wear a [f]ace [c]overing in the workplace except when in a completely enclosed private space or an isolated area not regularly used by others.” Additionally, the order requires that “[e]veryone must wear a [f]ace [c]overing when in shared areas of buildings including lobbies, common rooms, hallways, laundry areas, food preparation spaces, and bathrooms.” The order states that “[p]eople may remove their [f]ace [c]overing when they are outdoors if they are alone or with only members of their household or living unit and nobody else is within six feet.” Similarly, individuals may remove their face coverings when they are eating or drinking, whether indoors or outdoors, and no one else is within six feet.

The order includes certain exceptions that apply to the workplace. Individuals who can show they have “a written exemption from a healthcare provider based on a disability, medical condition, or other condition that prevents them from wearing a [f]ace [c]overing [need not] wear one.” Employees also do not need to wear face coverings while working if to do so “would create a risk to the person related to their work as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.” Individuals who are exempt from wearing a face covering such as a mask “still must wear an alternative face covering, such as a face shield with a drape on the bottom edge,” unless they can show either a written medical exemption or that wearing one while working would create a work-related risk to them as determined by government regulators or workplace safety guidelines.

The order also makes clear that San Francisco expects businesses to enforce face covering requirements for both employees and customers. Businesses must “[r]equire their employees, contractors, owners, volunteers, gig workers, and other personnel to wear a [f]ace [c]overing at the workplace and when performing work off-site at all times,” although with allowances for the exceptions included in the order.

In addition, businesses must “[t]ake reasonable measures, such as posting signs, to remind customers, clients, visitors, and others of the requirement that they wear a [f]ace [c]overing while inside of or waiting in line to enter the business, facility, or location.” They also “must take all reasonable steps to prohibit any member of the public who is not wearing a [f]ace [c]overing from waiting in line or entering.” Businesses must not serve individuals who will not wear face coverings and “seek to remove [those] person[s].”

The order states that failure to comply with any of its provisions of “constitutes an imminent threat and immediate menace to public health [and] constitutes a public nuisance.” Violating the order is “punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both.”

Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and will post updates in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar programs.