A Millbrae councilmember is asking the city to explore a new vaccination mandate that would require anyone entering restaurants, entertainment venues, gyms or personal service businesses to show proof of vaccination regardless of whether those facilities are indoors or outdoors. 

“It’s time for us to protect everyone’s health in our city,” said Councilmember Anders Fung, who is introducing the proposal. “Hopefully, I will be able to influence other people to do the same as well within our county and within our state.”

Fung will present the idea Wednesday, at which time the City Council will decide whether to continue with preparing the ordinance. He says the rule will be “geared toward protecting those who cannot protect themselves,” which includes children under 12 for whom the vaccine is not yet approved.

The rule, if adopted, would be the broadest vaccination requirement in San Mateo County and would go a step further than that of San Francisco, which mandates proof of vaccination for restaurants, bars, gyms and other venues only when indoors. 

“The rationale is that, if someone sits next to you outdoors, whether it’s 4 feet away or 5 feet away or 6 feet away, I want to protect them the same way as someone who’s sitting inside,” Fung said. “It’s time to really rally people behind the vaccine, because the vaccine is our way out of this pandemic.”

San Mateo County has a 92.7% vaccination rate for people over 12 years of age, the second highest vaccination rate of any California county for that demographic behind Marin County’s 96.9%. San Mateo County has reported 2,923 new COVID cases in the past 30 days, and currently has 44 COVID hospitalizations, according to county data.

Outdoor COVID-19 transmission is thought to account for less than 1% of transmission, and when it does occur is almost always after lengthy, close interaction, according to an Aug. 30 MIT Medical publication.

Still, Fung said he has spoken with numerous constituents, restaurant owners in particular, who support the legislation.  

“There are a lot of seniors, some of them are immunocompromised, even after they are vaccinated, they’re still concerned about coming out to dine and entertain in our city,” Fung said. “It’s my job as an elected official to protect those who are unable to protect themselves.”

But according to at least one restaurant owner, the mandate might hurt businesses more than it protects the public. 

“I’m not sure if it’s the smartest thing to be putting employees on the front line of what has become unfortunately a political issue,” said You You Xue, the owner of two restaurants including wonderful, a Chinese restaurant in Millbrae. “Our employees, they already deal with enough, were already stretched thin as it is.”

Xue, who ran for a seat on the Millbrae City Council in 2020, said he supports the vaccine fully, and required all his employees be vaccinated as early as February — long before most. He says he gets the argument for the proposed mandate, but doubts that those still unvaccinated at this point would be swayed by such a measure. 

“The degree of protection you can offer by imposing a policy like this is highly negligible,” Xue said. “It may be convenient as a political point, but when you view it as a business owner, it’s quite a lot of extra work.”

The Millbrae City Council will discuss the measure during a special meeting 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15. Go to https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87630924892 to join the meeting.

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