SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — San Francisco will require residents and visitors to prove that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for a number of indoor activities such as visiting restaurants, cafes, bars, and gyms, Mayor London Breed announced Thursday during a press conference.
The order will require businesses to verify vaccination status prior to entry. This goes into effect on August 20.
“This is to protect kids, is to protect those who can’t get vaccinated, is to make sure that we don’t go backwards, is to make sure that I never have to get up in front of you and say, ‘I’m sorry, I know we just reopened and now the city is closed again because we are seeing too many people die,’” Breed said.
Proof of vaccination will be required for all customers and staff. Staff will need to be fully vaccinated by October 13.
The requirement does not include people ordering takeout, Breed clarifies. It also does not apply to people who are ineligible to be vaccinated, which means kids under the age of 12.
Fully vaccinated means the person has received both doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, or received one dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
That’s not all the new health order includes, however.
There is also a new proof of vaccination requirement for large events at indoor venues, requiring attendees at events with 1,000 people or more to provide proof of vaccination.
“The health order also extends vaccination requirements to certain health care providers—including workers at adult day centers, residential care facilities, dental offices, home health aides and pharmacists—who are not already required. This goes into effect October 13,” Breed said.
San Francisco is reportedly the first major U.S. city to enforce proof of full vaccination to receive services at indoor businesses. New York City recently began enforcing a similar requirement, but businesses there only need proof of one dose.
If you have a cell phone and were vaccinated in California, the state has a way to access your vaccination card digitally so you don’t need to carry the paper copy. Tap here to get your digital COVID-19 vaccine record.
Before the announcement, hundreds of bars and restaurants were already checking vaccination cards and supported the idea of showing proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for entry.
As COVID-19 cases surge again, no business wants to deal with extended shutdowns like we saw over the past year.
“We are issuing these new health requirements because indoor, public settings where people congregate in close quarters, often with their masks off, are a main way that the virus spreads,” said Acting Health Officer, Dr. Naveena Bobba. “With the increased COVID-19 case rates, we need everybody who is eligible for a vaccine to get one now.”
San Francisco was among the first to ban large gatherings and close schools at the beginning of the pandemic and has been at the forefront of other COVID-19 restrictions, including requiring all city employees to be vaccinated without the option of testing regularly.
Already, COVID-19 cases among restaurant staff has caused some owners to temporarily close or limit service to outdoor dining.
Health officials say most of the new COVID-19 cases are among unvaccinated people. There are also reports of ‘breakthrough‘ cases, where fully vaccinated people also contract the virus. The CDC says these breakthrough cases are expected and account for a very small minority of all new cases.
COVID-19 vaccines are effective and are a critical tool to bring the pandemic under control. However, no vaccines are 100% effective at preventing illness in vaccinated people. There will be a small percentage of fully vaccinated people who still get sick, are hospitalized, or die from COVID-19.CDC
“Most people were really happy that we had started the policy. It took patience on everyone’s part. So, the people who were impatient or didn’t like the policy would just leave,” Vesuvio co-owner Janet Clyde said.“Having the weight of the government behind you, the science, the health department” makes it easier to enforce, she said.
Bar owners, already struggling to find enough staff, want to protect their employees and stay open, said Ben Bleiman, president of the San Francisco Bar Owner Alliance.
He said he was forced to close his bar one night after the bartender got infected at another job.
A group representing nearly 100 fitness studios said the mandate would help avoid the capacity limits or another potential shutdown that hurt their businesses last year.
“We support the city’s vaccine requirement for indoor fitness as it provides our clients with one more level of assurance that they can experience the mental and physical benefits of fitness in a safe, healthy environment,” said Dave Karraker, a board member of the San Francisco Independent Fitness Studio Coalition.
According to data from the city of San Francisco, 78% of the city’s eligible residents are already fully vaccinated and the goal is to raise the vaccination rate.
Statewide, 63.8% of Californians are fully vaccinated, according to the state health department.
Los Angeles is considering a similar vaccine requirement, with people needing at least one dose before going to indoor restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters and other venues. Leaders there voted Wednesday to direct city attorneys to work out the details.
See the breakdown of vaccinated California counties:
People who prove full vaccination will still need to keep a face mask on while inside public spaces, in line with a previous order.
Also Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said all employees at public and private schools in California will have to show proof of vaccination or face weekly testing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.