San Jose’s COVID-19 booster mandate for those attending large events at city-owned facilities is officially in effect. Some operators are reporting no impact on the amount of visitors so far.
The requirement, passed by the City Council in late January, went into effect last Friday and only applies to indoor events with 50 people or more. It changes the city’s existing vaccine mandate in three significant ways.
The first is having only a two-dose shot no longer meets the requirement. Patrons must show proof of a third shot taken at least 14 days before the event. The second change is a negative COVID test is now accepted in lieu of a booster shot. The test must be conducted one day before the event with an antigen test or two days before with a PCR test—at-home tests are not accepted. The third change is that children five years and younger are no longer exempt.
The new requirements are for anyone two years or older and will impact facilities such as SAP Center, Solar 4 America Ice at San Jose and city-owned museums such as the San Jose Museum of Art, Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose and The Tech Interactive. Requirements only apply to events and not daily operations, though venues can implement more stringent rules if they choose to do so.
Since those under 12 years old are not eligible for the booster shot, they will need to show proof of a negative test, city spokesperson Demetria Machado said.
“San Jose was an early adopter of this type of ordinance and so what we’re doing, why we updated it, was to align with the state and county guidelines,” Machado told San José Spotlight.
Mayor Sam Liccardo proposed the booster requirement for city-owned facilities in late December as Santa Clara County grappled with the spread of the omicron variant. At the time, the number of daily cases skyrocketed and the seven-day rolling average of COVID infections in the county jumped fivefold within 20 days.
Infections have slowed down since then, and Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said last week the county has passed the peak of the surge. As of Friday when San Jose’s booster mandate was implemented, the seven-day rolling average was 2,472 cases.
“From the beginning of the pandemic, our goal has been to support businesses and keep the public as healthy as possible, so it’s a balancing act,” said Elisabeth Handler, spokesperson for the city’s office of economic development.
The negative COVID test exemption, which was not part of the first vaccine mandate implemented in August 2021, is an example of that balancing act.
Frances Wong, spokesperson for Team San Jose, echoed the sentiment and said her organization is committed to working with the city to implement these protocols. Team San Jose represents the San Jose McEnery Convention Center and San Jose theaters including the San Jose Civic, Center for Performing Arts, California Theatre and Montgomery Theater.
Team San Jose was hit hard from the pandemic, reporting zero dollars in revenue in 2021. It was the first time the nonprofit, which manages the city’s arts and cultural centers and tourism, failed to meet its economic and financial goals in 10 years, a November 2021 audit revealed. In 2018-19, the last full year before the pandemic, Team San Jose generated $138.8 million for the city. In 2019-20, the number shrunk to $62.7 million before hitting zero last year.
“Team San Jose has led the way to provide the safest possible meetings experience for clients, patrons and staff,” Wong told San José Spotlight. “We will continue to do all that is required to welcome large events and insure the needed economic benefit that they provide to our community.”
When the city’s new COVID-19 protocol went into place on Feb. 4, the San Jose Museum of Art immediately implemented enhanced safety measures at its First Friday event. A line formed outside as staff checked for IDs, proof of full vaccination and booster shots.
S. Sayre Batton, executive director of the San Jose Museum of Art, isn’t concerned with this causing a limitation on visitors due to the county’s high level of vaccination. She said it hasn’t affected the number of visitors so far.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a problem,” she told San José Spotlight.