Seattle, the state’s largest city and the site of the first Covid-19 case in the United States more than two years ago, will begin lifting its proof-of-vaccination requirement for restaurants, theaters, and gyms on March 1.
And city and county employees who have been working from home for the past two years will be called back into the office soon.
Other major cities, including Philadelphia, the Twin Cities, and the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., are following suit as the rate of Covid-19 infections falls. According to a tally, the average number of new daily cases in the United States has dropped by 67 percent in the last two weeks. Mayor Ras Baraka of Newark, New Jersey, became the latest big-city mayor to waive the requirement to show proof of vaccination at restaurants and other public places on Thursday.
However, public health experts are wary of the trend. They point out that more than 103,000 people in the United States have died from Covid so far in 2022, and that while 76 percent of the population has received at least one shot, millions more have not.
Khan stated that she understands “the business perspective of removing vaccine mandates and encouraging more patrons and guests.”
However, she added, “this especially puts those who are immunocompromised or who cannot yet be vaccinated in danger.” Anthony Santella, the director of the Department of Health Administration and Policy at the University of New Haven in Connecticut, agreed.
“It’s too soon,” said Santella. “We went through this during the summer, when many people thought things were returning to normal and rolled back mitigation policies designed to stop the spread.”
However, the delta variant was followed by the even more contagious omicron variant, which infected both vaccinated and unvaccinated people and forced local authorities to reimpose stricter pandemic protocols, according to experts.
“They got pushback even from people who had previously been receptive when they tried to reimpose these measures,” Santella said. “Yes, things have greatly improved. But this isn’t the end of the story. I believe we need to be a little more patient”.
However, in King County, Washington, where Seattle is located, daily infection rates have dropped by 83% since early January, and hospitalizations have dropped by 62%. As a result, local officials have stated that they have fewer reservations about repealing the vaccination mandates.
Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C., where Covid cases have dropped by more than 90 percent since the peak of the omicron wave, gave constituents a post-Day Valentine’s present by announcing that proof of vaccination will no longer be required in places like restaurants and entertainment venues beginning Feb. 28.
“We have to be quick if something changes, as it did in December with a new, highly contagious variant,” she said. “I don’t think any of us here can say that there won’t be other variants that force us to do something different.”
While Chicago’s proof-of-vaccination mandate remains in effect, the City Council in the affluent suburb of Highland Park allowed the requirement that anyone over the age of five show proof of vaccination to enter a restaurant to expire.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter announced last week that they were lifting the vaccination requirements imposed on restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues on Jan. 19.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said this week that the city’s proof-of-vaccination mandate for bars, restaurants, and gyms, which was imposed on Jan. 15, could be lifted. Only California, the country’s most populous state, has worse statistics than Texas and Florida.
However, in California, where nearly 70% of the population is fully vaccinated, vaccination requirements vary by location. Businesses in Los Angeles, West Hollywood, and Culver City, for example, require vaccination proof, whereas the City Council in nearby Santa Monica voted against such a rule earlier this month. According to the Santa Monica Daily Press, this is largely due to the fact that 91 percent of its residents have received at least one shot.
The state also requires people to show proof of vaccination when attending large indoor or outdoor “mega-events,” such as conventions, concerts, and sporting events.