No Ban on COVID-19 Vaccine 'Passports," Cincinnati City Council Says

Local businesses can continue to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative tests.

Cincinnati City Hall - Photo: Nick Swartsell
Photo: Nick Swartsell
Cincinnati City Hall

There's nothing stopping businesses from enacting COVID-19 vaccination requirements, Cincinnati City Council said Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the Council voted against a ban on vaccine "passports," or the health requirements a local business has to enter or work in an establishment. Council Member Betsy Sundermann, who had originally introduced the idea of a ban through a motion, was the sole vote for the ban.

"Businesses have the right to know what we're going to do. It's not our role as government to force especially private businesses to require those [vaccine passport requirements]," Sundermann argued.

[Editor's note: After this article was published, Sundermann sent a clarifying note about her position to CityBeat via email: "Individual business should have the choice whether to require vaccine passports or not. The government should not force that requirement on them."]

Businesses increasingly are requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for entry, particularly since the U.S. Food & Drug Administration granted full approval for the use of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine in adults in August (Pfizer's vaccines for teens and all vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson remain under the FDA's emergency use authorization, with more approvals expected later this year). In recent weeks, many of Cincinnati's music and arts venues have announced requirements such as proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test from the prior 48 hours.

As of last week, City of Cincinnati employees are now required to get a COVID-19 vaccine or to be tested weekly, according to a memo from city manager Paula Boggs Muething. All city employees and contractors are affected.

The City Council discussion came as Greater Cincinnati -- and both Ohio and Kentucky on the whole -- experiences a sustained surge in COVID-19 cases, largely caused by the highly transmissible Delta variant. Because Delta carries a viral load 1,000 times more than the original virus and is increasingly seen as airborne, it's easier to spread when speaking, singing, sneezing or breathing hard, particularly within indoor areas. Retail, restaurant and hospitality workers frequently are in close quarters with the public, and businesses have developed COVID-19 protocols to help protect staff.

As of Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists every single county in Ohio and Kentucky as having high risk for COVID-19 transmission. All counties on the CDC's data tracker are red, indicating the most severe situation.

COVID-19 cases have increased in Cincinnati's home of Hamilton County. On June 6, 19 Hamilton County residents reported coronavirus; on Aug. 31, that number had dramatically increased to 406 cases, according to Ohio Department of Health data.

Things are no better in Kentucky, where 10,500 residents have reported new COVID-19 cases, according to Aug. 4 comments from Gov. Andy Beshear. Beshear also said that record numbers of residents were in hospitals and on ventilators, and 1,547 cases were in people ages 18 and younger.

Health experts have recently said that a new variant, Mu, has been found in 49 U.S. states and may be vaccine-resistant.

For COVID-19 vaccine locations and information, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov in Ohio and kycovid19.ky.gov in Kentucky.



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