Contra Costa County not requiring proof of vaccination at some indoor businesses

Contra Costa County announced Friday that it will lift its requirement that patrons of indoor businesses like restaurants and gyms verify their full vaccination status.  

County health officials said they chose to lift the requirement because 80 percent of all county residents have now completed their initial vaccination series.   

In addition, while the county is still confirming a seven-day average of more than 1,000 cases per day, local cases and hospitalizations are now plummeting from the peak of the omicron variant surge in early January, when the county was confirming upwards of 2,800 cases per day on average.   

Dr. Ori Tzvieli, the county's acting health officer, argued requiring patrons to confirm their full vaccination status or provide a recent negative test made sense last summer and fall, when the county first implemented the policy during the delta variant wave.

"But by no means are we back to normal," Tzvieli said. "There are still many more cases of COVID-19 in our community now than there were in mid-December, so we need to continue to take precautions when we go out."   

More than 1 million county residents -- 87.3 percent of the county's population -- have received at least one COVID vaccine dose, according to data from Contra Costa Health Services.   

Nearly 50 percent of residents ages 12 and up have also received an additional booster vaccine dose, which county officials have deemed necessary to bolster protection from infection and serious illness.   

"We deeply appreciate everyone who has chosen to vaccinate," CCHS director Anna Roth said. "You have made yourselves, your loved ones, and the entire community safer."   

The vaccine requirement initially went into effect in September for businesses in which people remove their masks to eat or drink indoors or places where people exercise and breathe more heavily as a result.   

Businesses that failed to do so risked being shut down by the county.   

Roth said in November that the county had received roughly 100 complaints about businesses failing to comply with COVID-related mandates, including checking the vaccination status of their customers.   

Two businesses, In-N-Out Burger in Pleasant Hill and Lumpy's Diner in Antioch, were briefly shut down after failing to comply. In-N-Out elected to close its dining room completely, offering only drive-thru service.   

County health officials said Friday that individual businesses will still be encouraged and allowed to require proof of vaccination or a negative test if they wish.   

Existing local and statewide health orders will also continue to remain in effect, the county said, including indoor mask requirements and vaccination requirements for workers in industries like health care that have a high risk of spreading the virus.   

Proof of vaccination is still required to visit a handful of settings, including hospitals, long-term care facilities and indoor events of 500 or more people.