By MADISON HIRNEISEN
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) – With COVID-19 hospitalizations and infections declining across California, San Francisco officials announced the city will no longer require individuals to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter some indoor public spaces starting Friday.
Under updated guidance from the San Francisco Public Health Department, individuals will no longer be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter restaurants, bars, gyms and fitness centers. Businesses can, however, choose to impose stricter requirements, like keeping the existing requirement of showing proof of vaccination.
The new guidance marks a transition for the city, which in August became the first in the nation to require individuals to show proof of vaccination before entering several indoor settings.
In a news release, officials said the policy successfully kept cases down during delta and omicron surges, but noted that current virus trends show that the city is ready to ease some restrictions.
“With cases and hospitalizations continuing to fall and our high vaccination rate providing a strong defense against the virus, SF is ready to further reduce COVID-19 restrictions and allow individuals to make their own decisions to protect themselves and their loved ones,” Health Officer Dr. Susan Philip said in a statement. “The proof of vaccination and testing requirements served their purpose in keeping these spaces as safe as possible for staff and patrons.
“Rolling it back is part of coming out of crisis mode and learning to live with the virus.”
Public Health officials in Berkeley also announced on Wednesday that restaurants, gyms and indoor events will no longer be required to verify the vaccination status of patrons starting on Friday. Businesses will have the option to set stricter restrictions.
In a news release, the city said the change in guidance comes as the city is seeing decline in severe illness and hospitalizations.
“Our COVID tools create a path to navigate the pandemic,” Dr. Lisa Hernandez, the City of Berkeley health officer, said in a statement. “As this latest surge fades, the safe path widens but the risks haven’t disappeared. Stay up to date on vaccinations by getting a booster when eligible. When needed, use a surgical mask or better to protect yourself and others.”
A few other cities across the state, including Oakland and Los Angeles still require individuals to show proof of vaccination when entering indoor public spaces, though the City of Los Angeles could make changes to this requirement soon.
On Wednesday, members of the LA City Council voted to draft an ordinance that would amend the city’s rules, which currently require establishments to verify whether their patrons are fully vaccinated, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The city’s guidelines, dubbed SafePass LA, were launched in November 2021. They require that restaurants, bars, fitness venues, entertainment centers and personal care establishments verify proof of vaccination.
The ordinance, which will return to the council for review at a later date, would rescind this mandate.
Just last week, L.A. County eased its own vaccine verification rules, which will no longer require operators to verify vaccination status of patrons at mega-outdoor events with more than 10,000 people and at the indoor portions of restaurants, bars and lounges, according to a news release from the county.
Vaccine verification or proof of a negative test requirements still remain in effect for indoor mega events with over 1,000 people under California Department of Public Health guidelines.
Los Angeles County also updated its masking guidance on Friday, announcing that it would no longer require but instead “strongly recommend” masking in indoor public settings for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
Certain federal masking requirements for transportation remain in place, however, as well as state mask mandates for health care settings and other high-risk settings.
In a statement on Friday, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer emphasized that while the transmission of COVID-19 has slowed, “there continue to be thousands of people whose lives, families, and work are disrupted each day because they or someone close to them is newly infected, and, for some, their infection will lead to severe illness.”
“With fewer required safety measures, getting vaccinated and boosted provides both individual and community protection that can help safeguard those who remain vulnerable,” she said.