A student getting the COVID-19 vaccine at a Kaiser pop-up at Oakland Tech in August 2021. Credit: Amir Aziz

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Beginning today, Oakland will no longer require people to prove they are vaccinated against COVID-19 before entering restaurants, bars, gyms, entertainment venues, and other indoor establishments. 

However, individuals must still show their vaccination cards to enter senior centers and assisted living facilities. Also beginning Wednesday, masks are required at large indoor events with 2,500 or more attendees. 

The relaxed vaccine rules the City Council adopted Tuesday do not prevent individual businesses from establishing their own rules, including continuing to ask patrons for their vaccine cards prior to entry.

Since Oakland’s mandate went into effect on Feb. 1, other cities have dropped similar requirements. San Francisco and Berkeley each did so in March. 

Oakland was left as the only place in California requiring proof of vaccination at businesses, which brought pressure from businesses, and concert and event promoters who wanted Oakland to be more aligned with other cities and counties.

Councilmember Dan Kalb, who wrote the emergency ordinance, said he has “mixed feelings” about ending it. Kalb told The Oaklandside it was one way to nudge people to get vaccinated and he’s heard it helped boost vaccination rates. But given that other Bay Area cities relaxed their rules, support to keep the mandate has dropped even from Oakland businesses who initially supported it. 

Last Friday, Alameda County Health Officer Nicholas Moss joined the 11 other Bay Area health officers in recommending—but not requiring—that people return to wearing masks indoors. The health officials said the Bay Area currently has the highest infection rates in the state, fueled by highly contagious omicron subvariants. 

“I think they should go back to the requirements we had previously which is masking in not all but many indoor locations,” Kalb said. “That’s the safest thing to do.” 

Kalb and Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan sent a letter this week to AC Transit officials calling for the agency to follow BART’s lead in continuing to require masks on public transit. 

The White House on Friday said the U.S. reached 1 million deaths from COVID-19, underscoring the need for continued vigilance against the virus. 

Since March 2020, there have been about 76,000 cases of COVID-19 in Oakland and the virus has contributed to the deaths of more than 500 residents, according to a memo from Kalb. Data from Alameda County Public Health and the county coroner’s office has shown East Oakland has seen a disproportionate amount of cases and deaths compared to other parts of the county. 

Oakland’s mask requirement will last until Nov. 1, 2022 or sooner if the city lifts the COVID-19 local emergency declaration it put in place in March 2020. It is also subject to change if the county health department adopts stricter mask rules, Kalb said.

David DeBolt reports on City Hall and policing for The Oaklandside. He spent 12 years working for daily newspapers in the Bay Area, including on the Peninsula and Solano County. He joined the Bay Area News Group in 2012 where he covered a variety of beats, most recently as a senior breaking news reporter. During his time at BANG, DeBolt covered Oakland City Hall, the Raiders stadium saga and the A’s search for a new ballpark, as well as the Oakland Police Department and police reform efforts. He was part of the East Bay Times staff honored with the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News for coverage of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire.