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Restaurants and bars in some cities have begun to require that customers show proof of vaccination before they’re allowed to dine indoors. Medical experts say it’s a responsible move that may help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Grandbrothers/Getty Images
  • Some bars and restaurants are requiring customers to show proof of vaccination if they want to dine inside.
  • Medical experts say this is a brave and bold move to protect customers and help with public health measures against COVID-19.
  • They also say allowing only vaccinated people indoors at bars and restaurants will help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on July 27 that fully vaccinated Americans should wear masks inside in locations where transmission of the coronavirus is high, some bars and restaurants took a stance on stopping the spread and protecting their patrons.

Due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in San Francisco, restaurants in the Bay Area like 7 Stills Brewery and Distillery and clubs like Mr. Tipple’s Recording Studio are requiring that customers show proof of vaccination if they want to dine or visit inside their venues.

The manager for 7 Stills Brewery and Distillery told NBC News that they are accepting vaccination cards or photos of the cards as proof of vaccination.

Several restaurants in New York, including Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern, announced they will also begin requiring customers to show proof of vaccination before they’re allowed to dine indoors.

Medical professionals like Dr. Sunitha Posina, an internist in New York City, say this is a responsible move.

“I think it is a great idea. The current concern is the spread amongst unvaccinated people and putting themselves at great risk of becoming infected. There is an increase in the new number of cases in multiple states throughout the country,” Posina told Healthline.

Noah Greenspan, PT, board certified clinical specialist in cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapy, says the requirements are a good way to keep customers safe.

“With bars and restaurants reopening, there will obviously be people congregating, eating, drinking, and speaking in close proximity, who aren’t wearing masks because, well, that’s what people do in bars and restaurants,” he told Healthline.

Although from a health perspective, this choice is a safe one, Greenspan points out that bars and restaurants may experience pushback from customers who have different views on the use of masks and vaccinations.

“This can potentially range from verbal or even physical abuse to the loss of income threatening the business itself… I would like to express my appreciation for businesses and other organizations that are willing to take a bold stand in the interest of public safety and prioritizing the well-being of all over any individual, especially when the stakes are so high,” he said.

Given the Delta variant is highly transmissible, requiring people to be vaccinated if they want to dine or drink inside venues could help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

According to the CDC, the Delta variant is one of a few variants of SARS-CoV-2 that seems to spread more easily and quickly than other variants. This could lead to more cases of COVID-19, which can put more strain on healthcare resources, and lead to more hospitalizations and potentially more deaths.

“In this scenario, there are many factors that can increase or decrease the level of risk, including the size of the space, the density of people and their proximity to each other, as well as the size, type, and quality of the ventilation, air conditioning, and filtration systems,” said Greenspan.

In general, he points out the following as factors that will affect risk level:

  • Frequency. The more frequently you are exposed, the greater the risk.
  • Intensity. The greater the viral load you are exposed to, the greater the risk. For example, if 10 people in a bar you are sitting in have the virus, your risk increases.
  • Duration. The longer you are exposed, the higher your risk. In other words, if you are sitting next to a person with the virus at a restaurant for 2 hours versus 5 minutes in passing, your risk is greater.
  • Type or method. If your dining partner coughs on your arm and you immediately wash it off, you might be less at risk than if they coughed directly in your face, where the virus can enter through your nose or mouth.

Greenspan notes that the risk in each scenario above decreases if one or more person in the situation is wearing masks and are vaccinated.

While only allowing vaccinated people inside bars and restaurants can reduce the risk of transmission, he adds that it’s not foolproof.

“In addition, alcohol is known to lessen inhibitions and impair judgment, potentially leading to riskier behaviors in all shapes and sizes,” Greenspan said.

Posina says more requirements like this could encourage people to get vaccinated, so they can continue social interactions safely without jeopardizing their health or putting others at risk.

“Vaccines are the strongest weapon to fight this war against the COVID-19 pandemic that has taken over our world and people’s lives and well-being. They are highly effective at preventing deaths and hospitalizations,” said Posina.

While masking, hygiene, social restrictions, and vaccines over the past few months have helped with the spread, she says more is needed.

“[We] shouldn’t regress now, and the best way to tackle it is by people getting vaccines and masking,” Posina said.

For those who are vaccinated, taking precautions is still necessary, especially with the Delta variant circulating.

“Vaccine is likely to protect you from serious illness, but you can still get mild or asymptomatic infections, and [you are] also likely to spread it to other vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals,” said Posina.