Vaccine verification system in the works — just don’t call it a passport

Oregon City, OR, USA - Jun 3, 2021: Signage at a car dealership in Oregon City says that masks are not required with proof of vaccination.

One key component of California’s reopening may come down to semantics.

What’s the difference between a “vaccine verification system” and a “vaccine passport”? Hard to say — but Gov. Gavin Newsom distinguished between the two during a Friday press conference, suggesting the state is working on an electronic system that businesses can use to check customers’ vaccination status while emphasizing “there is no mandate, no requirement, no passport.”

Tomorrow, Newsom will lift California’s stay-at-home order, allowing most businesses to reopen at full capacity and fully vaccinated people to forgo masks in most situations. But the looser rules usher in a new challenge for businesses: How will they determine customers’ vaccination status and ascertain whether they need to wear masks? The state last week gave them three options: rely on the honor system, require all customers to wear masks, or implement a vaccine verification system.

  • Newsom: “As it relates to technology … there are opportunities to make available different strategies to provide a more secure, safe and transparent form of verification, but again, this is voluntary. … We’ll be making some announcements very shortly in that space.”

The yet-to-be-unveiled optional system — which will undoubtedly be met with pushback from anti-vaccine activists and privacy advocates — underscores that California’s transition back to normalcy won’t happen instantaneously on June 15. Newsom on Friday announced plans to roll back a series of pandemic executive actions, but many won’t phase out until July or September. Cal/OSHA, the state’s workplace safety agency, will decide this week whether to let fully vaccinated workers go maskless — but even if passed, the new rules won’t take effect until June 28.

The state Capitol building will reopen to the public, but not at full capacity — and masks and physical distancing will still be required. Telework will persist at many state agencies. And some regions are sticking with rules stricter than the state’s: San Francisco, for example, has tougher rules for large indoor events, while Los Angeles Unified School District and its teachers union recently struck a tentative deal that would require everyone — even those fully vaccinated — to wear masks on campus in the fall.

And even as hospitals begin to shutter their COVID wards, the virus continues to pose a threat — especially in rural communities and for Black and Latino Californians, CalMatters’ Ana Ibarra reports.

After drawing 15 more winners of a $50,000 prize Friday, Newsom unveiled another slew of incentives to push hesitant Californians to get their shot: free Doritos Locos tacos, free Chipotle queso and discounts at the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors stores. Today, he’s going to announce yet another new incentive, “California Dream Vacations.” Oh, and 10 prizes of $1.5 million will be drawn tomorrow.

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 3,695,530 confirmed cases (+0.03% from previous day) and 62,508 deaths (+0.01% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

California has administered 39,438,215 vaccine doses, and 55.1% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

Plus: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions.

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