Health

‘Mission Impossible’: As Boston begins to prove vaccination, companies are concerned

Paul Deutero of Galleria Umberto in the North End decided to temporarily switch to takeout only until the mayor cancels the rule. Customers within the company for a short time, to buy food, for example, do not need to show proof of vaccination. for his popularity Pizza, applying such a rule is just not worth it.

“It’s not a start,” Deutero said. “A family comes and you have four or five people. If one of them has not been vaccinated, what do you do, throw it away?”

In launching the requirement, Wu said it would help stave off another wave of COVID, get more people to get vaccinated, and protect indoor gatherings. She was joined that day at a city council news conference by business owners and leaders of cities and towns around Greater Boston who expressed their support.

But restaurateur Chris Coombs doubts that checking the vaccination status of his customers won’t significantly alter the course of the epidemic in Boston.

“Someone can show me their fully vaccinated and booster card and still be COVID positive,” said Combs, who owns Boston Chops in the South End and Deuxave on Commonwealth Street. “I’m not really sure what exactly it achieves, other than making it more annoying for those who haven’t been vaccinated.”

To avoid queues of people standing outside his restaurants, Combs is asking his employees to collect vaccine credentials as they call parties to confirm reservations. Restaurants will store this information in an internal database, so repeat customers only need to go through the process once.

However, he knows his staff is poorly equipped to certify any records the beneficiary might provide. Under the authorization, business owners are not required to request additional forms of identification.

“It’s kind of an impossible task,” Coombs said. “A noble idea.”

The rules will come into effect in phases, starting on Saturday when people over the age of 12 are required to show evidence of at least one dose, and culminating with a requirement that everyone over the age of five shows a full vaccination by May 1. A spokesman for Wu’s office said. Companies that fail to enforce the rule initially will receive Verbal warnings, followed by fines of up to $300 each violent. Companies that repeatedly and willfully violate the rules can lose their license to operate.

Massachusetts recently introduced a digital certificate that recipients can use to show proof of vaccination, and Boston will launch a smartphone app called “B Together” on Saturday, which allows people to easily access a photo of their CDC card.

Massachusetts residents can now access the SMART Health Card, which provides a secure digital way to prove that you have received a COVID-19 vaccination. Project Commons

Boston business owners expect to see an immediate impact this weekend, noting that even if most Bostonians have been vaccinated, many remain, reducing the number of potential customers.

“As Mayor Wu casually stated, 70 percent of the city has received a full vaccination,” Combs said. “I’m thinking about the 30 percent that gets removed from the total addressable market.”

The policy leaves little room for exemptions for religious, medical, or personal beliefs, either. If someone has not been vaccinated, Wu suggests engaging in “a collaborative dialogue to find an alternative means of serving, such as serving takeaways instead of serving indoors.”

“Maybe it solves the problem with a restaurant, but how do you solve the problem at a concert venue, or a pool where someone wants to exercise?” said Jeffrey Gilbreth, a business and employment practice partner at the Boston law firm of Nixon Peabody.

And with so many companies struggling, no one really wants to turn customers away.

“If people don’t have masks, companies can pull them off and say, ‘OK, you can come in,'” Gilbreth said. “They can’t bridge the gap in someone’s vaccine status.”

And – at least for now – Boston is largely alone in asking for a shot to eat at a restaurant or go to the gym. While Salem and Brooklyn have gone through similar mandates, Somerville is ready to do it on Friday, Other communities continue to discuss the benefits. Even neighboring Cambridge, whose mayor voiced support for Wu’s plan in December, seems unlikely to adopt a similar mandate.

“We’ve prioritized education and awareness over punitive enforcement,” city manager Luis DePasquale told the city council on Monday. “As such, I am not committing Cambridge at this time to a vaccine authorization plan.”

This “patchwork quilt” of bases across cities and towns is the logical consequence of the state government’s refusal to impose a mandate across Massachusetts, said Mark Driesen, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Board. Driesen, whose agency often works on regional efforts like these, said he expects more communities to join in the coming weeks, noting that not every mayor has the same authority as Boston.

“In general, people felt that [Wu] He was moving in the right direction.” “Obviously there are some people who don’t agree with her.”

However, some said such a mandate in the region’s largest city could help move the needle about vaccination rates by linking the results to some people’s decisions not to vaccinate, said Dean Eccles, associate professor of marketing at MIT. It could be especially true for young people, he said, “who face more social pressures to engage in the activities covered by the mandate.”

A customer receives an order of take-out near a sign announcing the upcoming change.Lynn Turner/Globe Staff

He added that it may also help unvaccinated people realize that the majority of Bostonians are vaccinated, a piece of information that has been shown to increase vaccination.

It is not clear whether the mandate will achieve its other stated goals of curbing the winter wave or protecting indoor gatherings. San Francisco and New York City, which have had similar mandates in place for months, have seen a spike in cases in recent weeks.. Officials there did not respond to questions about proof of vaccination policies.

In Manhattan, Liam McGreevey, Most customers comply with the rule by flashing a QR code or CDC card to an employee standing at the front door, the Legends Sports Bar manager said. Employees do not scan digital codes to verify or spend more than a few seconds viewing a paper card for authenticity.

“We are a busy sports bar, so there is an honor system in place,” McGreevey said.

Driesen, the director of regional planning, said Boston’s launch, meanwhile, may have hurdles at first, but he believes the city still has to move forward quickly.

“Sometimes, if you just implement it, which Mayor Wu pretty much does, it just goes well,” Draysen said. If you ask work, ‘Do you want to do this? “You will always have a small minority, but a very loud minority, saying, ‘No, the sky is going down.'”

Bessie King, general manager of Villa Mexico restaurant in the financial district, said she’s all in favor of proving vaccination if it helps businesses stay open. She notes that many of them have already exhausted their savings and federal relief funds.

“If people expect us to keep going, we need to do it in a safe way,” said King, who is also a founding member of the Board of Directors of Massachusetts United Restaurants, which represents independent establishments. “If people don’t cooperate, small businesses will close left and right.”

However, she acknowledged that vaccination authorization is not foolproof, and that smaller restaurants like hers probably can’t hire someone to check vaccination cards at the door. King also notes that it will not return office workers to the empty towers around them.

“At this point, it’s not just about vaccines, it’s about people wanting to get out,” King said. “And we don’t know how to convince them, because they are comfortable and safe at home.”


Anissa Gardizy can be reached at anissa.gardizy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter Tweet embed.

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