In a surprise announcement Wednesday morning, the San Francisco Department of Public Health stated it will drop proof of vaccination and negative COVID-19 test requirements for indoor dining and drinking at restaurants and bars in San Francisco starting Friday, March 11. Among the other businesses affected by the announcement are gyms and fitness classes, which will also be allowed to drop the requirement.
As always, there are a few caveats to look out for: The health department emphasized businesses can make their own decisions over whether to continue checking proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 tests. This announcement also does not mean masks are done for; masks can still remain a requirement, also at a business’ discretion.
San Francisco was among the first major cities in the U.S. to require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for indoor dining. That mandate has been in place since August 20, 2021 and required businesses to screen vaccination cards and negative tests at the door. In its statement, the city touted its vaccination rate — currently sitting at 83 percent — which SFDPH pointed to as part of the reason it will be dropping the mandate Friday. “The proof of vaccination and testing requirements served their purpose in keeping these spaces as safe as possible for staff and patrons,” Health Officer, Dr. Susan Philip, said in part, in a released statement. “Rolling it back is part of coming out of crisis mode and learning to live with the virus.”
The rollback of the vaccination card requirement in San Francisco is not entirely a surprise: Several cities and states across the United States have been relaxing their indoor requirements, including (most notably) New York City, which dropped its vaccine mandate on Monday. Meanwhile, the state of California ended its indoor mask requirement for vaccinated individuals on February 15.
It remains to be seen how many restaurants and bars will continue to make vaccination cards an indoor dining or bar requirement for patrons. For its part, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, the San Francisco restaurant industry’s main lobbying organization, praised the move by SFDPH, writing in part, “We are grateful to hear that the city of San Francisco has decided to discontinue the requirement for showing proof of vaccination for indoor dining. This brings San Francisco in line with the state and we commend the Mayor and the Department of Public Health officials for making this decision. This move to return to a more normal dining experience is a welcome step for our hard hit hospitality industry, which relies not only on residents but also on business travelers and many leisure tourists from outside the Bay Area.”