Over the past week, San Francisco and New Orleans have joined New York City in announcing policies to require proof of vaccination for restaurants, gyms, and other indoor venues. But don’t expect DC to follow suit anytime soon. On the couple of occasions that Mayor Muriel Bowser has been asked about the possibility, she’s been non-committal but implied a mandate is not likely right now.
“I’m not sure how effective that will be on a jurisdiction by jurisdiction basis. We don’t live in bubbles, and we certainly don’t live in a bubble in this region,” Bowser said in a press conference last week.
In an interview with Washingtonian, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio was a little more explicit: “I don’t have a crystal ball, I can just tell you that’s not something we’re considering at this moment. We are, though, trying to figure out how more employers can make it a requirement.”
Bowser has started by requiring vaccination (or weekly Covid testing) for all city employees, contractors, and grantees by Sept. 19. All DC healthcare workers must also get at least their first shot by Sept. 30. At the same time, a quickly growing list of restaurants, entertainments venues, gyms, and other businesses are voluntarily making the move.
“People want to know that they’re going to be safe when they go out, so it’s actually an amenity that the business now is promoting in order to draw more customers,” Falcicchio says.
Meanwhile, local officials have also been having talks about creating a regional vaccine passport. But Falcicchio says a big obstacle is simply accessing and exchanging vaccination records.
“For us, the easiest approach on this would really be if the feds do it,” Falcicchio says. “What we don’t really have is access to that data that would help us give people the confidence in that passport. There are people who’ve gotten vaccinated in DC at one of our pharmacies but they’re still not showing up in our system.”