As of Friday, Aug. 20, San Francisco will require all patrons of bars, restaurants, gyms, theaters and large indoor venues to show proof of full Covid-19 vaccination when indoors, the mayor announced Thursday morning.
Additionally, employees must also prove immunization. To allow time for employers to gather the information, proof won’t be required until October 13.
The order comes as the Delta variant spreads across the country and continues to severely affect unvaccinated individuals as schools and businesses continue to reopen. Today’s order makes San Francisco the first major city nationwide to implement a mandate that affects a slew of indoor activities.
“We know that for our city to bounce back from the pandemic and thrive, we need to use the best method we have to fight COVID-19 and that’s vaccines,” said Mayor London Breed in a statement.
Proof of vaccination won’t be required for those under 12, who can’t currently be vaccinated.
Most of the eligible residents in the city, some 78 percent, are already inoculated. And asking for vaccination status is already a common practice among individual businesses already. More than 500 San Francisco bars banded together and recommended that service be refused to any unvaccinated person who did not produce a negative Covid-19 test.
The decision in part was to avoid another closure of the city’s businesses, which endured months of economic devastation during the initial shut-downs. “San Francisco fully reopened for business on June 15, and has since seen encouraging signs that the economy is coming back to life, a rebound the City wants to maintain,” stated a press release from the city.
But Thursday’s announcement ushers in some stricter rules. Before, unvaccinated attendees of large, indoor events like concerts or conferences could skate by on a negative Covid-19 test; now, only proof of vaccination buys them entry. There will be temporary exceptions for events occurring before Sept. 15 if the tickets were sold before August 12, so the city can transition to the new rules.
Some businesses embraced the news, like Mat Shuster, the chef and owner of Canela Bistro & Wine Bar. The bistro already required proof of vaccination for indoor dining two weeks ago. “We are thrilled to see San Francisco move boldly to make this a citywide policy as we strongly believe this is the best way to get beyond this pandemic,” he said in the press release.
Other employees worried the order might be stepping over the line. Rojesh, a waiter at Mission Curry House, said when it came to customers, he believed vaccination should be their choice. He personally felt safe, as all the employees at the restaurant were already vaccinated, he told Mission Local.
He was also concerned that it might reduce the restaurant’s traffic.
“I think it’ll be harder for businesses. It will deter people from eating inside,” Rojesh said.
Similar concerns were expressed by Gus, a manager at Pete’s Bar-B-Que, who said that checking the vaccination status of every customer who comes in sounds like “a whole separate job” for a staff member. “I’m scared we might lose customers. They might get mad because of privacy concerns,” he said.
He wondered if this “might bring up issues” for business owners, like potential lawsuits. “It leaves businesses vulnerable,” Gus continued. “I’m shocked. The vaccination percentages are higher, aren’t they? But I guess it makes those who eat here more comfortable.”
Already, the acting San Francisco Health Officer Dr. Susan Philip mandated that staff in certain high-risk sectors like healthcare workers and home-care facilities must be vaccinated by Sept. 15. All 35,000 city workers were ordered to be vaccinated and must demonstrate that “shortly.”
Regardless of vaccination status, masks are still required indoors, as the mayor announced last week.