Berkeley restaurants

Oakland considering mask mandate for 1,000-person indoor events

An Oakland council member will introduce an ordinance next month that requires people to wear masks at large indoor gatherings of 1,000 or more people.

The ordinance will remove the city’s current requirement that people show proof of a vaccine to enter bars, restaurants, gyms and other businesses. People will still need to show proof of vaccination when entering senior centers and assisted care facilities.

Council member Dan Kalb, who plans to present the ordinance at the May 3 council meeting, said the changing rules are partly intended to bring Oakland in line with neighboring cities San Francisco and Berkeley, which have also dropped their requirements for people to present proof of vaccination. .

If businesses choose, they can still require proof of vaccination for customers, Kalb said.

The mask mandate is an effort to stop superspreader events where people may congregate indoors and risk transmitting or catching COVID, Kalb said. Earlier this week, nearly 100 San Mateo students tested positive for COVID after prom.

Kalb warned that if hospitalizations increase, the city could bring back proof of the vaccination requirement.

“If there’s an increase or an increase in hospitalizations…we won’t hesitate to bring him back,” Kalb said. “We are going to be very careful about this. If we are more cautious than other jurisdictions, so be it.

If passed, Kalb said the new order would go into effect May 4.

Over 81% of the city’s population has been fully immunized and nearly 88% have received at least one dose. More than 61% of the population received a reminder.

Kalb’s order comes nearly two months after the city implemented a rule requiring people to show proof of the vaccine at restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses. At the time, Kalb, who also introduced the prescription, said it was intended to encourage more vaccinations and reduce the spread of the virus as concerns grew about omicron.

Oakland Chief Nelson German said it’s easy to ask customers to show proof of vaccinations — most people have their proof on hand. German, the owner of Alamar Kitchen & Bar and Afro-Latin cocktail lounge Sobre Mesa in Uptown Oakland, said they would continue to require proof of vaccinations if Oakland decided to drop the rule depended on its staff.

“For me, that’s the most important thing – how are the staff feeling?” said the German.

John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, said there were pros and cons to dropping proof of the vaccination requirement. The benefits include removing ownership from companies to enforce public health policy, which puts them “in a very difficult position”.

But the downside is that people may have to be restrictive in the type of activities they engage in depending on their vaccination status and health, Swartzberg said.

The decision to require masks at indoor gatherings of 1,000 people seems “arbitrary”, he said.

“Are people really going to follow this?” Swartzberg said, adding that it will depend on how sites enforce the mask mandate.

The effectiveness of the mask mandate will also depend on the type of masks people are wearing, the size of a venue and how well it is ventilated and whether people will take their masks off while attending a concert or other function.

“I respect their aspirations,” Swartzberg said. “I don’t know if it’s practical.”

Sarah Ravani (her) is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @SarRavani