Berkeley to require booster proof for workers at restaurants, gyms and more

The health order also extends its proof of vaccination mandate for restaurant patrons and gym-goers to everyone over 5 years old.

Jaclyn Lee and her child, Niko, sit for the 15-minute waiting period during a vaccination clinic at Rosa Parks Elementary on Nov. 13. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

A new health order announced by the city of Berkeley late Wednesday will require workers at some indoor business to prove that they’ve had a COVID-19 booster shot, or are otherwise considered “up to date on vaccination.” In the same order, the city said that it is lowering the age of those covered by its current proof of vaccination mandate to cover everyone over the age of 5. Both rules will take effect on Feb. 7.

According to the order, which was posted to the city’s website and sent out as a community alert at 7:15 p.m., the new vaccination rule applies to employees of indoor businesses where face coverings are removed, such as restaurants, bars and other places where patrons will eat or drink. 

Employees at indoor businesses where people “breathe at more intense levels in a group,” such as group exercise facilities and gyms, must also provide proof that they have been boosted or that their vaccinations are considered current. 

Also included in the mandate are workers at indoor operations where people “gather together indoors in groups of 500 or more,” such as concert halls or fully enclosed sports venues. Finally, workers in businesses where there are “greater risks of exposure to an unvaccinated or immune compromised population” must comply with the new order, including staff at child care facilities, adult day programs, home health care services, pharmacies, and dental offices.

The city defines “up to date on vaccination” by way of a California Department of Public Health order issued late last year. According to that order, one is considered “up to date” if it’s been less than five months since the second dose of their first round of either two-shot vaccination protocol (Pfizer or Moderna). If it’s been more than five months since a person’s first round of vaccinations has concluded, workers must provide proof that they have had a third, booster shot as well.

Folks who went the single-shot, Johnson & Johnson route must have had that shot less than two months ago. If it’s been longer than that, they must provide proof that they have gotten “a second dose of any brand” after their initial dose.

While the new order also tightens restrictions for patrons of certain businesses, it does not require booster shots. The city’s current proof of vaccination mandate, which took effect on Sept. 10, requires everyone over the age of 12 who enters an indoor drinking or dining setting, who visits an indoor exercise facility or who attends an indoor event of over 500 people to provide proof of identification along with proof of full vaccination. The new order lowers that age to everyone over the age of 5. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of the two-dose Pfizer vaccination for kids ages 5-11 on Oct. 29, 2021. To be considered fully vaccinated under this order, kids must now prove that there has been at least 14 days since their second dose of the vaccine. 

Kids who turn 5 after the order takes effect must be fully vaccinated by March 14 or within 60 days of becoming eligible. Of course, most kids that age don’t have state-issued ID. According to Berkeley officials, kids can instead provide identification issued by their school, or verbal confirmation from a parent or guardian. 

This new order might come as a surprise to some, an issue that Berkeley city spokesperson Matthai Chakko acknowledged to Berkeleyside. “With omicron, we’re moving as fast as we can. We are continuing to see that boosters have a huge effect on preventing serious illness and hospitalization, and we’re doing what we can to keep everyone in these [indoor] situations safe.”

These orders join several other vaccination rules for Berkeley kids and workers, including a Berkeley public schools requirement that students over the age of 12 be vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing, as well as a vaccination mandate for city workers that took effect on Nov. 15. As of publication time, Berkeley is the only city in Alameda County with a comprehensive proof of vaccination mandate. On Feb. 1, restaurant patrons and gym-goers in Oakland will be required to provide proof of vaccination to enter indoor facilities.

Eve Batey (she/her) is the editor of East Bay Nosh. Email: eve@eastbaynosh.org. Twitter: eveb.