These U.S. Cities Are Requiring Proof of Vaccination for Indoor Activities

Mom and daughter using a COVID proof app.

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Key Takeaways

  • Several major cities are requiring proof of vaccination for indoor activities.
  • Some of the activities that will require vaccines include indoor dining, gyms, and performances.
  • Experts are hopeful this will encourage vaccination and help curb the transmission of the virus.

As COVID-19 cases around the country continue to increase, some major cities are taking matters into their own hands by requiring vaccines for certain indoor activities. 

San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced on Thursday, August 12, that people in the city must provide proof of full vaccination to dine indoors at restaurants or to visit bars, gyms, and entertainment venues.

“We know that for our city to bounce back from the pandemic and thrive, we need to use the best method we have to fight COVID-19 and that’s vaccines,” Breed said in a statement. “Many San Francisco businesses are already leading the way by requiring proof of vaccination for their customers because they care about the health of their employees, their customers, and this city.” 

San Francisco’s mandate comes weeks after New York City became the first U.S. city to require vaccines for certain activities. People in the city who want to dine indoors, visit gyms, or attend performances, will need to show proof of at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“If you want to participate in our society fully, you’ve got to get vaccinated. It’s time,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference in early August. “This is going to be a requirement. The only way to patronize these establishments is if you are vaccinated, at least one dose. The same for folks in terms of work, they will need at least one dose.”

In New Orleans, Mayor LaToya Cantrell also announced on August 12 a requirement for proof of vaccination in her city. Residents and visitors will need to show either proof of a COVID-19 vaccine or a recent negative COVID-19 test to go inside restaurants, bars, or other indoor venues.

Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test will also be required for large outdoor events of more than 500 people. "We’re here today because we really have no choice," Cantrell said during a press conference. "The situation is dire and we are simply out of time." The requirement went into effect on Monday.

What This Means For You

If you live in certain cities or plan to visit a major city anytime soon, you may be required to show proof that you’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19. Make sure you're aware a city’s policy in advance.

Will Mandates Work?

Experts are hopeful these vaccine mandates will help curb transmission.

“I think it is reasonable for organizations to want to exclusively deal with the vaccinated as the unvaccinated pose a risk to others, especially other unvaccinated people,” Amesh A. Adalja, MD, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Verywell. “No business wants to be the site of COVID transmission and the disruption that entails.”

Adalja says that these mandates may encourage some people to get vaccinated as a way to resume their pre-pandemic life. William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, agrees.

“If it is adopted in a widespread fashion in certain cities, it will push some people off the fence and get them vaccinated,” he tells Verywell.

"I'm a big fan of these kinds of requirements," Reynold Panettieri, MD, director of the Institute for Translational Medicine and Science at Rutgers University, tells Verywell. "They're critical for us to stop the spread. We know that the Delta variant is affecting those who are unvaccinated, so the swiftest way for us to prevent the spread is by limiting exposure. The alternative is that we'd need to go back into lockdown, which would be unfortunate."

But others are not so sure they'll make a dramatic difference.

"Places like New York City have reasonably high vaccination rates, so some of it might be preaching to the choir," John Sellick, DO, an infectious disease expert and professor of medicine at the University at Buffalo/SUNY in New York, tells Verywell.

How Cities Are Verifying Vaccination Status

As of now, there is no nationally recognized way to show proof of vaccination.

However, each city that has announced its requirements has also shared its own method of verifying vaccination status:

  • San Francisco: Patrons can show their vaccination record card from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or an image of the card if you have a picture on your phone. The city will also accept certain approved private apps to verify vaccination status.
  • New York City: People need to use the city’s app, called NYC Covid Safe, New York state’s Excelsior Pass, or their vaccination record card.
  • New Orleans: Patrons can use the LA Wallet app, an original copy of their vaccine record card, or a photocopy or picture of their vaccine record card. People may also use an official vaccine record issued by another state, country, or the World Health Organization.

Adalja emphasizes that there needs to be an easier way to show proof of vaccination. “More apps have to have the functionality to upload the cards, the way Clear does,” he says. “Carrying around flimsy cards is not ideal.”

Will Other Cities Adopt Vaccine Mandates?

Los Angeles may eventually have a vaccine mandate, too.

The Los Angeles City Council voted last week to draft an ordinance that would require people to have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in order to enter indoor public spaces. It's still unclear if the mandate will be passed once it is drafted.

But it’s difficult to see mandates like this working everywhere in the country, especially in areas like the Southeast and Midwest, Schaffner says.

“It may fit in some cities, but in others, it would evoke substantial pushback and concern," he adds.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. City and County of San Francisco. Vaccine Required. August 16, 2021.

  2. The Official Website of the City of New York. Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability. August 3, 2021.

  3. City of New Orleans. Mayor Cantrell Announces New Vaccine Requirements in Response to COVID Surge. August 12, 2021.

By Korin Miller
Korin Miller is a health and lifestyle journalist who has been published in The Washington Post, Prevention, SELF, Women's Health, The Bump, and Yahoo, among other outlets.