Despite anger, cursing, protest, and even a brief chamber evacuation, the San Jose City Council voted unanimously to require proof of full vaccination at events held at city-owned properties that have more than 50 people in attendance. Venues like SAP Center, the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, and others will soon have to deny people entry to larger events if they can only show proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
Dozens of people against the vaccine mandate showed up inside city hall leading up to Tuesday’s vote and ended up forcing council members and the mayor to leave the chambers briefly and get to a safer space. Once police got the crowds out only a couple dozen of the protesters were allowed back in to make comments. One protestor told the Mercury News that they believe this is only the first step to even more restrictions against people who don’t want the vaccine. “If they do this, then the next step will be private property, so you wouldn’t be able to go to grocery stores, churches, malls.”
San Jose City Councilmember Raul Peralez made it clear that the mandate does not mean everyone must get vaccinated. “Everybody is absolutely able to make their own health decision on whether or not to get vaccinated, but we as a council are also able to decide how to safely operate our city-owned facilities,” Peralez said.
Mayor Sam Liccardo said during the meeting that he appreciated the frustration and concern surrounding the controversial mandate. “We are all frustrated. This pandemic has gone on so long. We’ve got to follow the data. We’ve got to follow the science and make the best decisions to protect our residents," said Liccardo.
It’s unclear exactly when the new rule would take effect but it comes the same week that drugmaker Pfizer received full FDA approval of its vaccine which is expected to boost public confidence in vaccines. The city says it has to give operators that use city venues for large gatherings time to come up with ways to enforce the new protocol. Some of the other city-run venues that would be impacted are the California, Montgomery, and Hammer Theaters, San Jose Civic, Center for Performing Arts, San Jose Museum of Art, and Mexican Heritage Plaza.
According to the latest public COVID-19 data, 81% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated in Santa Clara County, which is one of the highest rates in the nation. It remains to be seen whether San Jose will go as far as San Francisco which is requiring proof of full vaccination for most indoor activities including gyms, bars, theaters, and restaurants.