A COVID-19 vaccination is administered by injection into an arm on March 18, 2020, in San Antonio, Texas. (Lance Cheung/USDA via Bay City News)

People visiting several types of facilities in Oakland as well as City Hall must now provide proof of vaccination to get inside.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday afternoon to approve the requirement to boost the vaccination rate in the city. Seventy-six percent of eligible residents in Oakland are fully vaccinated, county health data show.

Places that will now require proof of vaccination include where food or drinks are served, entertainment venues, theaters, concert venues, museums, recreational facilities, yoga studios, gyms, fitness centers, senior adult care centers, large indoor events at facilities owned by the city or privately, City Hall and at city senior centers.

Councilmember Dan Kalb introduced the requirement, which included dental offices and public libraries. But those two places were taken out of Kalb’s original ordinance in an amendment by City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas.

“This Emergency Ordinance will help with the effort to increase the number of people who are vaccinated as well as provide safe spaces for people to eat, drink and work out among other things,” Kalb said in a statement after the vote.

Similar requirements are already in effect in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Berkeley.
Oakland’s ordinance provides some exceptions. Patrons at restaurants and bars can show a recent negative COVID-19 test if they have a doctor-verified exemption from the vaccine.

Visitors to City Hall can also show a recent negative COVID-19 test to enter.

“We know that the unvaccinated are much more likely than the vaccinated to transmit SARS CoV2, the virus that causes Covid,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, clinical professor emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Public Health, Division of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology, in a statement.

“Further, the unvaccinated are far more likely than the vaccinated to become ill, be hospitalized, wind up in the ICU on a ventilator, and even die,” Swartzberg said.

He said while the Delta variant is surging now, he expects a deluge of infections soon from the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

“The ‘tridemic’ of Delta and Omicron, plus influenza will sorely test our healthcare system,” Swartzberg said, adding that the new ordinance “is an important and necessary tool to reduce the number of people getting infected.”

Councilmember Carroll Fife asked how the ordinance would affect private businesses, especially those owned by people of color.

Patrons feel safer at businesses that require proof of vaccination and business owners feel the requirement attracts business, said Darlene Flynn, executive director of Oakland’s Department of Race and Equity.

“It also keeps their staff healthy,” Flynn said.

As part of the ordinance, the city will be offering drop-in vaccination sites for people to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, thanks to an amendment by Kalb. At least one councilmember expects a surge of people seeking to be vaccinated because of the ordinance.

“Let’s be partners with them,” Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan said of the public who wants to get vaccinated.

Kalb voted no on Bas’s amendment before a final vote was taken. The ordinance goes into effect immediately.

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.