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COVID: Contra Costa County Drops Proof Of Vaccination, Negative Test Requirement At Restaurants, Gyms

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY (CBS SF) -- Health officials in Contra Costa County announced Friday certain businesses, including restaurants and gyms, are no longer required to check patrons for proof of vaccination or a negative test.

"We believe now is the right time to loosen a requirement that made a lot of sense last summer, when a different variant of COVID-19 was dominant and there was less community immunity," Dr. Ori Tzvieli, the county's acting health officer, said in a statement.

Contra Costa Health Services said it was loosening the requirement after the county reached a full vaccination rate of 80%. Officials also said the omicron surge has likely peaked and that hospitalizations have already started to decline.


While cases appear to be declining, Tzvieli continued to urge caution. "But by no means are we back to normal. There are still many more cases of COVID-19 in our community now than there were in mid-December, so we need to continue to take precautions when we go out," he said.

The order, which went into effect in September, required restaurants, bars, entertainment venues and indoor fitness facilities to verify customers were fully vaccinated or had tested negative within the past three days. Officials also required employees in indoor areas of the impacted businesses to show proof of vaccination or test weekly.

Similar requirements were put in place in San Francisco and Berkeley.

"I would say the vaccine is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself, to protect your family, protect your community," Dr. Tzvieli told KPIX on Friday.

People dining in Walnut Creek Friday had not learned about the change yet. Some were hesitant to dispense with vaccine verification.

"I think it's very surprising, I'm going to be honest ... very surprising to me that they're doing that," said Payton Reil, a Moraga resident.

Those unsure of the move said they would continue to follow similar precautions they adopted in the last year of the pandemic even after being vaccinated.

"If you want to stay safe, wear a mask. If you want to risk it, especially if you're not vaccinated, I mean it's your own risk right?" one woman in Walnut Creek said. "The severity is so much less and I think we got to live, we got to live."

Contra Costa's health order was not without controversy. In October, an In-N-Out Burger location in Pleasant Hill was temporarily shut down by the health department over repeated violations of not checking customers but later reopened for drive-thru and carry-out service.

Officials said individual businesses can continue to implement their own proof-of-vaccination or testing requirements.

At Lima Restaurant in Concord owner John Marquez refused to follow the order when it took effect last September. "We're not into he business of policing peoples personal beliefs. We're in the business of getting food out and making people happy," he said.

Marquez said he's glad the burden to check vaccination cards is over.

"So many people would call before they come out and ask if we are checking vaccination status. I would say 'no, come on in.' Now that it's gone, everyone is coming out. You can see today it was busy."

Some diners acknowledged that, while they're not sure it is the right time to make this change, this is part of the process as the virus evolves.

"I think requiring people to show their vaccine card doesn't hurt us as a community. It incentivizes people to get vaccinated so they can go out to restaurants," said Grace Clinton, a Moraga resident. "This is what viruses do, they change and mutate so they can live among us and we learn to live with them and that's the direction this is going."

Friday's announcement does not affect other county and state COVID-19 orders, including vaccine verification requirements among healthcare workers and first responders, along with the state's indoor mask mandate.

"The pandemic isn't ending quite yet. We think COVID-19 will be with us for many years," Tzvielli said.

© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. KPIX correspondents Shawn Chitnis and Andrea Nakano contributed to this report

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