San Francisco will require proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 for many indoor activities, including going to restaurants, bars, theaters, gyms, and indoor events of more than 1000 people. COVID tests are no longer an opt-out option. The new citywide requirement was announced today August 12, 2021 and will go into effect on Aug. 20. It was not clarified why a theater that holds less than 1000 people would be required to confirm vaccination status while an “indoor event” of less than 1000 people would not. Churches and schools were not cited in the requirements.
Here is the full text of the release; the devil’s in the details (or lack of) so it’s worth a full read if it affects you or your clients.
San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed and Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax announced today that San Francisco will require businesses in certain high-contact indoor sectors, such as those that serve food or drink like bars, restaurants, clubs, theaters and entertainment venues, as well as indoor gyms and other fitness establishments, to obtain proof of vaccination from their patrons and employees in order for them to go inside those facilities. This does not include individuals ordering or picking up food or drink to go. The Health Order is designed to protect against the continued spread of COVID-19, particularly among the unvaccinated, while keeping businesses open and helping to ensure schools remain open.
Additionally, San Francisco’s order creates a new proof of vaccination requirement for large events at indoor venues, requiring attendees who are age 12 or older at events with 1,000 people or more to provide proof of vaccination. Previously, state and local rules required proof of vaccination or testing to attend indoor mega-events with 5,000 people or more. Under the updated San Francisco order, providing a self-attestation of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test in lieu of proof of vaccination are no longer options for people 12 and older to attend these indoor large or mega-events. Sponsors of outdoor events with more than 5,000 people attending are strongly urged to require proof of vaccination for patrons and staff.
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 included in the state health order on vaccinations.
“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 Breed. “Many San Francisco businesses are already leading the way by requiring proof of vaccination for their customers because they care about the health of their employees, their customers, and this City. This order builds on their leadership and will help us weather the challenges ahead and keep our businesses open. Vaccines are our way out of the pandemic, and our way back to a life where we can be together safely.”
The updates to San Francisco’s Safer Return Together Health Order are a response to the continued spread of COVID-19 most recently driven by the Delta variant primarily among unvaccinated people. While the City this week reported that 78% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated, the current surge in new cases demonstrates the need for additional measures to close the remaining gap of unvaccinated people, while protecting those not yet eligible for vaccines such as children under the age of 12. 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. San Francisco public schools are also reopening Monday for in-person instruction.
The health order requirement for proof of full vaccination for patrons of indoor public settings, including bars, restaurants, clubs and gyms goes into effect on August 20. This requirement includes indoor event spaces where food or drink is served. By that same date, those businesses must use their best efforts to ascertain the vaccination status of their employees. To preserve jobs while giving time for compliance, the proof of vaccination requirement for staff goes into effect October 13 for employees.
The vaccination requirements for indoor events, both private and public, that have 1,000 people or more in attendance go into effect on August 20. There is a limited exception for those events where tickets were sold before August 12 for events occurring by September 15; instead, those events may allow proof of negative testing as an alternative to proof of vaccination. The additional health care workers covered by the update to the order must be fully vaccinated by October 13.
The requirements may be subject to limited exemptions under state and federal law. Also, the new requirements for proof of vaccination do not apply to individuals ineligible for vaccinations, including children under 12 years old. But everyone, including children two years and older, still must comply with applicable indoor mask requirements under local and state health rules.
“In this phase of the pandemic, we must optimize the powerful tool of vaccines to protect us as we fully reopen to business,” said Director of Health, Dr. Grant Colfax. “These past few weeks have demonstrated how important it is that everyone eligible is vaccinated as we resume normal activities.”
“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’s current 7-day average daily cases is 246 and the test positivity rate is 5.6%. This is compared to the peak of the winter surge when daily cases averaged 373 and the test positivity rate was 5.2%. As of August 8, 109 people were hospitalized, compared to 265 at the peak of the winter surge. The numbers demonstrate that even as cases soar, today’s surge is much less deadly than the previous ones with the most severe cases and hospitalizations among the unvaccinated.
The updated health care order puts another measure in place to boost vaccination rates. The City and County of San Francisco has required that all 35,000 City employees be vaccinated 10 weeks after final approval of one of the vaccines by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is expected shortly. Additionally, all employees at “high risk” healthcare and congregate settings, including acute care hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, homeless shelters, jails, and other locations, must also be vaccinated by September 15.
“Two weeks ago, we started requiring proof of vaccination to dine inside in an effort to ensure the safety of our staff and our customers. 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,” said Mat Shuster, Chef/Owner of Canela Bistro & Wine Bar.
“The San Francisco Venue Coalition fully supports the City and Mayor Breed’s efforts to keep us all safe, healthy, and best prepared to fortify the City against the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. These increased provisions hopefully will expedite all public gathering places ability get back to doing what we all love—being a space for community in service to all San Franciscans,” said Casey Lowdermilk, Co-Founder of the San Francisco Venue Coalition.
DPH is also making it increasingly easy and convenient to get vaccinated, last week launching a new mobile vaccination team called Vax to You that will vaccinate small groups of five to 12 people in their homes and workplaces by appointment when they organize groups of interested individuals. Business owners can take advantage of this service by reaching out to the mobile vax team. For information about finding a safe, free and convenient COVID-19 vaccine, visit sf.gov/getvaccinated. For information on the new requirements, visit sf.gov/vaxrequired.
Businesses can access SFDPH’s COVID-19 Outreach Toolkit with flyers, posters and other materials.