Montgomery County might soon require people show proof of their COVID-19 vaccines to get into restaurants, bars, movie theaters, gyms and other places.
County Executive Marc Elrich proposed the legislation. If the county council approves the plan, anyone 12 years and older would have to show proof they’ve received at least one dose of the vaccine beginning Jan. 21. By Feb. 1, anyone 5 years and older would have to show they've had at least one vaccine dose.
Proof of full vaccination, one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, would then be required for people 12 and older starting on Feb. 15. On March 1, the same rule would apply to anyone 5 and older, according to the proposal.
"We are at an urgent moment," Montgomery County Council Member Will Jawando said.
Jawando said despite the county’s high vaccination rate, more can be done to protect people.
Requiring proof of vaccination is also in line with D.C., which has a similar mandate.
"I think this is the responsible thing to do. If you want to go out in a congregate setting, these are the rules we have to deal with right now, considering where we are with hospital capacity and how omicron is spreading," Jawando said.
Some Montgomery County restaurants already require patrons to show proof of vaccination.
"We’re just doing our part in the community to keep everyone safe," said Justin Kaplan-Markley, director of operations for Zinnia in Silver Spring.
"We definitely had discussed it in the past kind of seeing how we could enforce it and then definitely with omicron we’ve had a couple scares, and we were like we need to be ahead of the game,'" Kaplan-Markley said.
Some businesses opposed to a vaccine passport, however, argue that small businesses and their staff shouldn’t be responsible for enforcing government policy.
"We are all in this together, is what I would say to anyone who would say, 'Well, why do I have to do this?'" Jawando said. "I think it’s in line with other steps that responsible business owners have to take."
If approved, people could either show their physical vaccine card, a picture of it on their phones or an electronic record.
At Zinnia, Kaplan-Markley says feedback from customers has been positive.
"People are kind of surprised we are doing it early but everyone is happy to do it," Kaplan-Markley said.