San Francisco and Berkeley Drop Vaccine Mandate for Bars, Restaurants and Gyms

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person wearing pink mask and cowboy hat with bright eyeliner holds up vaccination card
Starting Friday, March 11, you will no longer have to show proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, bars and gyms in San Francisco and Berkeley. (Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Starting Friday, San Francisco and Berkeley will no longer require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to enter restaurants, bars or gyms, according to separate statements the cities released on Wednesday.

San Francisco became the first major U.S. city to mandate proof of full vaccination for certain indoor activities back in August 2021. Berkeley followed soon after in September 2021 with its own local health order concerning proof of full vaccination to enter these spaces.

Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test will still be required in San Francisco and Berkeley to attend a so-called "mega event" indoors with more than 1,000 people, such as certain large-scale concerts and shows.

After Friday, businesses in San Francisco and Berkeley can still require proof of vaccination from customers and their staff. These businesses also can continue to require masks, even though mask mandates for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people have now been lifted for most indoor spaces in California. Read more about current mask rules in your Bay Area county.

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San Francisco officials say they'll "continue to work closely with the business community to provide related guidance and assistance in the coming days."

Berkeley's announcement acknowledged that "some patrons, including those at higher risk due to age or medical conditions, may prefer" businesses to set stricter regulations for their customers and staff.

According to state data, 85.8% of San Francisco's population are fully vaccinated. The city of Berkeley reports that 92% of its residents are fully vaccinated.

'Coming out of crisis mode'

In their announcements, health officials in both San Francisco and Berkeley framed the rolling back of vaccine requirements as reflecting what they saw as a new phase of the pandemic — prompted by declining rates of COVID cases and hospitalizations.

"The proof of vaccination and testing requirements served their purpose in keeping these spaces as safe as possible for staff and patrons," said San Francisco Health Officer Dr. Susan Philip. "Rolling it back is part of coming out of crisis mode and learning to live with the virus."

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Dropping these requirements in San Francisco would "allow individuals to make their own decisions to protect themselves and their loved ones," said Philip.

Berkeley's announcement spoke about a "shift from requirements to recommendations" that reflected "the current phase of the pandemic, with hospitalizations and severe illness remaining low amidst an ongoing decline in infections."

"Our COVID tools create a path to navigate the pandemic," said Dr. Lisa B. Hernandez, Berkeley's health officer. "As this latest surge fades, the safe path widens but the risks haven't disappeared." She urged residents to continue to get vaccinated and get their booster, and to wear a mask "when needed."

We'll update this story if further Bay Area cities or counties decide to roll back their proof of vaccination requirements. In the meantime, if where you live, work or study still requires proof of vaccination to enter bars, restaurants or gyms, here's how to look up your California vaccine card online.