OAKLAND — People dining inside restaurants in Oakland or visiting other indoor public gathering spaces such as gyms may have to show proof that they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 if the City Council approves an emergency ordinance on Tuesday.
The ordinance, proposed by Councilmember Dan Kalb, is similar to ones adopted several weeks ago by San Francisco and Contra Costa counties and the city of Berkeley.
It would require adults to show their vaccine card and ID inside places where food or drinks are served, and at concert venues or museums, gyms, yoga studios, assisted living homes, senior centers, libraries, dentist offices and Oakland City Hall.
The law would also apply to youths 12 and older, but they would not be required to show identification.
The ordinance would take effect Feb. 1, 2022.
Kalb said the goal is to increase the vaccination rate in Oakland as well as to protect people indoors.
“If the people who have (COVID-19) increasingly are the unvaccinated, those most likely to spread it are unvaccinated, so we should discourage unvaccinated people from being in crowds indoors, especially in places where you take off your mask,” Kalb said.
Alameda County has not issued a vaccine mandate.
“We support getting as many county residents vaccinated as possible,” county Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss said. “The biggest challenge for us is that Alameda County is a very big county with a lot of cities. It would be a heavy lift to support all the small businesses to implement this.”
Moss said the county considered a mandate, but the idea of having to beef up enforcement mechanisms deterred it.
“We weighed that against how much progress we had been making getting people vaccinated,” he said. “How much more juice would we be able to squeeze out of this? With those considerations, we decided not to move ahead.”
Kalb said in Oakland, the city’s code enforcement team would be in charge of responding to complaints about businesses that don’t check customers’ vaccine proof and would be empowered to issue fines.
Contra Costa County also enforces its vaccine mandate by sending inspectors to businesses that customers complain about. After this news organization reported that inspectors didn’t fine any businesses in November despite receiving more than 80 complaints, the Board of Supervisors told them to start cracking down again.
Under Oakland’s proposed ordinance, unvaccinated people could still dine indoors and go to gyms or large indoor events as long as they have a doctor-verified medical exemption and a recent negative COVID-19 test.
The exemptions for going to City Hall, public libraries and dentist offices would be broader: a recent negative COVID test could be used in lieu of the proof of vaccination, regardless of whether the person has a doctor’s note.