Oakland to consider dropping proof of vaccination requirement, but require masks at mega-events

Oakland, one of the last remaining Bay Area cities to still require customers to show proof of vaccination in most businesses, may do away with that requirement in the coming weeks.

The Oakland City Council is likely going to roll back the city's proof of vaccination requirement that's in place for most indoor settings, such as restaurants, bars, gyms, and other businesses. At the same time, the revised ordinance would impose a mask mandate at indoor facilities with more than 1,000 people.

Last month, San Francisco and Berkeley dropped their proof of vaccination requirements. Now, Dan Kalb, an Oakland City Council member thinks the time may be right for Oakland to follow suit. He's proposing a revised ordinance to that effect on May 3. If the city council votes to approve it, which is likely, the new ordinance would go into effect on May 4.

"We're not giving up on getting more people vaccinated," Kalb said. "We're not giving up on reducing the spread. But we're trying to do what's most sensible."

The sensible approach, according to the ordinance, is to keep the proof of vaccination requirement in place at city senior centers and assisted living facilities, but remove the requirement at most other places of business. 

The ordinance would also enforce masks at mega-events in Oakland that are larger than 1,000 people. It's a bolder directive than Alameda County's gentler wording, which "strongly recommends," that people wear masks at such events.

Both public and private event centers, like the Fox Theater, Paramount Theatre, and Oakland Convention Center, would require masks under the new ordinance.

"My feeling is, in the places where you're most concerned about transmission, why just ‘strongly recommend’ it?" Kalb said. "Let's require it, let's see if that really helps make a difference."

At Oakland's historic Everett & Jones Barbeque, a local spot since 1973, the owner said asking for proof of vaccination has hurt her business.

"Sometimes people are confrontational about it," Dorcia White, the third-generation owner of the restaurant said.   

The restaurant on Broadway lost about a fifth of its sit-down business, White added, in large part because people either didn't have a vaccination card with them, or weren't vaccinated.

White doesn't have a parklet or heat lamps for customers, so besides takeout, a large portion of her business relies on indoor, sit-down dining.

At Jack London Square, Elliott Myles the co-owner of Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon is thinking about how his staff may react to serving people who may or may not be vaccinated.

"Maybe the bartenders would go back to wearing masks if we have unvaccinated people coming in," Myles said. "I'm not sure, that's going to be up to them."