The lifting of mandates has come at a very fast pace in California in recent weeks, and now we officially have word from the Chase Center that they will stop checking vaccination status as of April 1.
The change at the Chase Center, and for all indoor "mega events" of 1,000 people or more, comes after Friday's announcement by the San Francisco Department of Public Health that it was aligning with the state's guidance on these big events. Proof of vaccination and proof of boosters — which for adults has been required since February, and for teens since March 1 — will no longer be necessary, and nor will anyone have to show proof of a negative test as of April 1.
The exception now is that unvaccinated children and adults will need to keep masks on in the venue at all times when not eating or drinking. But that is an honor system situation. "Failure to comply can result in ejection from the event," the Chase Center said in a statement — but how would they know?
For now, and through til a week from Friday, they'll still be checking for vaccinations at the Chase Center — and that includes for this weekend's March Madness games on March 24 and 26.
Meanwhile, while case numbers have steadily fallen in San Francisco and the wider Bay Area since January, COVID continues to spread at some noticeable rate — and anecdotally it seems there are a slew of mild infections going around among the vaccinated and boosted in March which likely aren't being counted because they're being caught by at-home, over-the-counter tests. As the New York Times noted in The Daily podcast today, there is increasing evidence that the boosters' effectiveness wanes after about three months, which is leaving more people vulnerable to being infected right about now if they were boosted in November or December — even if most of these infections will be mild thanks to the immunity provided by the vaccines.
The Times health reporter talking on the podcast, Apoorva Mandavilli, had just gotten over her own bout with Omicron, in fact.
The Omicron BA.2 variant now accounts for about 30% of cases in places in the Northeast, and is the dominant variant in parts of Asia, Europe and the U.K., where it is causing yet another wave of infections. Whether another major surge occurs in parts of the U.S. because of it remains to be seen — but the unvaccinated, and the elderly and immunocompromised, will remain vulnerable to bad infections from the variant if it finds them.
The state and city's guidance for attending indoor mega-events remains that masking and vaccinations are strongly recommended if no longer required. And they continue to encourage venues and event sponsors to "convey" risks of infection to attendees, and encourage them to be vaccinated and to download the CANotify app so they may be made aware if they're in close contact with anyone who later tests positive.
"This shift acknowledges that while case rates and hospitalizations are declining statewide from their peak during the omicron surge, indoor mega events continue to involve several factors that increase the risk of transmission of COVID-19," the state guidance, published Thursday, says. This update comes after an earlier update in mid-February when the threshold definition of an indoor "mega-event" was raised from 500 to 1,000 people, in recognition of declining hospitalizations.
"These recommendations will continue to be updated as CDPH continues to assess conditions on an ongoing basis," the state's health department says. "California must be vigilant to maintain situational awareness through surveillance and be ready to pause or reinstate a higher level of protective mitigation recommendations or requirements."
Photo: Corleone Brown