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The new trend in California?

Friday afternoon, as they have done for generations every spring, baseball fans will head to San Francisco to open the Giants home opener.

But to enter the ballpark this year, they must bring something beyond their ticket: proof that they have been vaccinated or the results of a negative COVID test taken within the last 72 hours.

This demand – imposed by San Francisco public health officials – Bay Area residents have asked: Is this a new trend or an outlier as California continues to reopen?

For now, it appears to be a unique case, experts say. But the broader topic is still evolving.

President Joe Biden and Gavin Newsom have recently said they will not require a “vaccine passport”

; or proof of vaccination for people to attend gatherings or events. There have been issues of privacy, of justice for low-income residents and the role of government in setting up a “haves and have nots” system. Some states, particularly Florida and Texas, have already banned the use of vaccine passports. But California counties can require them under state health regulations.

The Giants have only 22% capacity on their early games – around 8,900 fans per game. Game. The team says there will be random checks of fans at the gates for vaccine information and testing, and that the rules may change later in the season as more people in the community are vaccinated.

“I think it’s more of a one-time article,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, Professor of Medicine at UC San Francisco. “I think San Francisco is very cautious right now, but the demand is likely to disappear. It is enough to require masking and seating in small groups. The test adds a little to that. ”

Gandhi noted that no other baseball team in California, including Oakland As, requires testing. Only two other baseball teams nationwide, the New York Yankees and Mets, require proof of testing or vaccination.

Gandhi is a member of the San Francisco 49ers Health Advisory Board and said the board will not recommend the requirement for 49ers play when the team returns for next season. Outdoor events pose much less health risk than indoor events, she added, and attending an event where people are wearing masks and separated is pretty much the same as walking on the beach or eating at an outdoor restaurant, none of which require vaccination or test certificate.

“Do I think it will be the standard? I really do not do that, ”she said. “Outdoor transmission is really low. About 1 in 1,000 transmissions takes place outside. If anything, we need to encourage outdoor activity. Ventilation is as good as it comes out. ”

Health departments in several Bay Area counties, including Alameda and Sonoma, said Wednesday they have no plans to exceed state rules. So far, these rules do not require testing or vaccination to attend events. Rather, they set limits on how many people can participate.

Until June 15 in California, professional sports teams can have up to 25% of their pre-pandemic capacity, vaccinated or not, if their county is classified in the red reopening level. It is adjacent to 33% in the orange level, which includes every Bay Area County except Solano along with Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Cruz, Monterey and others.

The San Jose Earthquakes, whose first home game is on April 24, are planning 20% ​​capacity with masks and separate seating, but no mandatory vaccine safety or testing.

However, if teams confirm that all fans have tested negative or been vaccinated, state rules allow up to 67% of normal capacity while at the orange level.

Government Gavin Newsom and other government officials have not said what will happen to rules for sporting events after June 15.

The state also recently issued rules allowing venues hosting concerts, plays or other events to welcome larger crowds if they require participants to show evidence of a negative COVID-19 test or full vaccination. However, California will continue to restrict certain major events such as music festivals and indoor conventions. In the case of conventions, state rules will ban events with more than 5,000 participants until October 1 – unless organizers receive evidence of vaccinations or negative tests from participants.

Asked about vaccine confirmation at a news briefing on Tuesday, Secretary of State for Health and Human Services Mark Ghaly said, “There are no current plans by the state to introduce or have a vaccine passport system.”

“That being said,” Ghaly added, “we know companies are already investigating how to ensure that people who have been vaccinated can come and enjoy some of the privileges of being vaccinated through verification. This is an approach that many companies (and) many borrowers will expect, which is why we work with a number of individuals and entities across the state to ensure that it is done responsibly, fairly and equitably. ”

That seems to be where the broader trend is heading, said Dr. George Rutherford, an epidemiologist at UCSF. Rutherford said he supports the rules for the Giants because fans gather close to sidewalks outside the game, but he expects the city to lift them soon as the number of cases continues to fall.

But he said there is a likelihood that some sort of “vaccine passport” system is run by private companies such as airlines and music promoters who want to have more paying customers than state or federal regulations might otherwise allow, and a lower risk of transmission. . Both the EU and China are moving forward with plans for vaccine passports for international travelers.

“I think it’s inevitable,” Rutherford said.

Staci Slaughter, a spokeswoman for the Giants, said that while some fans may see the requirement as a hassle, others have said they are grateful for the extra layer of security.

She would only say that the giants “have a backup plan” for fans who show up with a ticket but no evidence of vaccination or negative COVID testing and refused to explain what it was. “We have a way of working with them to facilitate their ability to access the ballpark if they show up without knowing what they need to do,” she said. “We do.”

Whether other parts of California will copy what San Francisco requires remains to be seen, she said.

“I’m sure it will be county by county,” she said, “and when more people are vaccinated, there will probably be more consistency across the state. But it’s hard to predict these things. We all do the best we can. ”

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