NYC, San Francisco Lead Cities in Demanding Proof of Vaccination
(Bloomberg) -- Broad vaccine mandates in some of the biggest U.S. cities are drawing critics who call the steps an affront to freedom and a workplace burden. But the rising wave of requirements is winning employee unions, diners and concert-goers who find comfort in a virtual wall against delta-fueled Covid-19 spread.
In the past week, the mayors of San Francisco and New Orleans joined New York City’s with orders for bars, restaurants, gyms and other businesses to require indoor customers to show proof of shots. Los Angeles is considering a vaccine mandate in some public indoor spaces after an Aug. 10 vote by the county board of supervisors.
“The only route to continued progress is higher vaccination rates,” Ken Weine, spokesman for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, said Monday during New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s virus briefing.
In some places, private businesses are going where their local governments have not, demanding vaccination cards or mobile phone app-based proof. On July 26, such a rule by Argosy Restaurant & Bar in Atlanta led to a Twitter attack by U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Georgia Republican and conspiracy theorist.
In Texas, where Republican Governor Greg Abbott on July 31 signed an executive order prohibiting local vaccine requirements -- a follow-up to his May rule against face-covering mandates -- two Austin restaurants abandoned their homegrown plan to screen diners when state officials said they were risking their liquor license.
“Outrageous,” Mayor Steve Adler, a Democrat overseeing the state capital of 1 million people, said by phone. “I am trying really hard to keep people in my community safe, especially unvaccinated children, while at the same time keeping the economy open, and the governor is making it near impossible.”
As of Aug. 12, about half of the total U.S. population has been fully vaccinated. Cases, deaths and hospitalizations are increasing, especially in areas with lower vaccination coverage. A seven-day average of 10,569 people were admitted to hospitals for Aug. 7-13, a 20% increase from the prior week, with admissions at their highest levels in Florida, Louisiana and Oregon.
All over the U.S., “vax pass” supporters say they’re eager to show their status if it means socializing in relative safety.
“It’s a relief that I don’t have to be in a room where hundreds of people may or may not be vaccinated,” said Ricky Vigil, a 36-year-old music fan from Salt Lake City and ticket holder to some concerts whose promoter will allow only those who have had shots.
Phish and Dead & Co., two jam-band touring favorites, last week announced that concert-goers will need proof of vaccination or a negative test, as will the outdoors Sea.Hear.Now Festival in Asbury Park, New Jersey, on Sept. 18-19.
Live Nation Entertainment Inc., one of the nation’s biggest ticketing companies, will require vaccines or negative Covid-19 tests for performers, crew and audience members starting on Oct. 4. AEG Presents, whose festival ownership or partnership interests include Firefly, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage and Coachella, took a similar step, but is dropping the negative-test option starting Oct. 1.
In the U.S. Senate, Republicans Ted Cruz of Texas and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota on Aug. 9 introduced legislation to ban federal mask and vaccine mandates, a step that has virtually no chance of succeeding amid Democratic control. In Michigan, a vaccine requirement by the four-day Mackinac Policy Conference at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island led state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Republican, to say he won’t attend.
“It should not be overlooked that this vaccine mandate position is more extreme than the policy of the Grand Hotel, the island’s civic government and the state of Michigan as a whole,” Shirkey said in a statement to the Detroit Free Press.
De Blasio’s order, requiring proof of at least one shot and no option to show a negative test result, goes into effect tomorrow and includes stadiums and casinos. Enforcement will start next month, with venues subject to $1,000 fines for non-compliance.
Read more here: NYC to Require Vaccinations for Museums, Stadiums, Casinos
In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed’s mandate, starting on Friday, is stricter, requiring full vaccination for entry to bars, restaurants, clubs, theaters, performance spaces and indoor gyms.
“With the increased Covid-19 case rates, we need everybody who is eligible for a vaccine to get one now,” San Francisco’s acting health officer, Dr. Naveena Bobba, said in a statement.
San Francisco-based reservation service OpenTable Inc. has introduced a “Verified for Entry” feature to tag patrons for future visits once they have met initial requirements. Patrons can also see an interactive map of local restaurants that require vaccinations.
The National Restaurant Association, a lobbying group representing 500,000 food establishments, warns that the mandates potentially are putting workers in harm’s way.
“Checking vaccination status isn’t like ID-ing a customer before serving them a drink -- staff receive training on how to do that,” Larry Lynch, an association senior vice president, said in a statement. “Last year when mask mandates across the country were put in place, restaurant workers suffered terrifying backlash when enforcing those rules.”
In San Francisco, though, a group of 500 bar operators were willing to take the risk when they started requiring proof in July, before Mayor London Breed mandated vaccination proof city-wide effective Aug. 20.
“These people are messing up our livelihoods here, and putting people in danger,” Ben Bleiman, founder of the San Francisco Bar Owners Alliance, said of unvaccinated would-be patrons. Beyond online blowback from “a bunch of remarkably moronic right-wing trolls,” most response has been positive, Bleiman said in an interview.
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