a government-sponsored vaccine passport called the Excelsior Pass is being introduced. A smartphone app, it shows whether someone has
California's rules are different for private indoor gatherings, including weddings, meetings or conferences. Those are only to be allowed if all guests test negative for the coronavirus at least 72 hours in advance or show proof of full vaccination. The changes do not mention requiring proof of vaccination and put much of the enforcement on business owners and operators.
“Allowing some of these activities and opportunities to vaccinated individuals is an incentive,” said Dee Dee Myers, director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. “If they can return to some of their favorite activities because they’re vaccinated, then hopefully a few more people will go and get vaccinated.”
The new rules seem to nudge California toward a system of vaccine verification, a hotly debated issue across the country. New York has launched a digital pass residents can use to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test that is accepted at major entertainment venues. But Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order on Friday banning businesses from requiring so-called “vaccine passports.”
President Joe Biden’s administration has said the federal government won’t come up with a national vaccine passport app, leaving that to the private sector. But the federal government is devising regulations for how and when those passports can be used.
California Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón said Friday the state will follow the federal government’s lead but said vaccinations won’t be required for essential services.
California’s new rules come as the state has administered nearly 19 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines. Nearly 6.9 million people are fully vaccinated in a state with close to 40 million residents. Only people 50 and over are eligible statewide to get the vaccine now, followed by those 16 and older on April 15.
Capitol Police officer William “Billy” Evans, an 18-year veteran of the force, was killed Friday when a man rammed his car into a barrier outside the Senate side of the building. The driver, identified as 25-year-old Noah Green, was shot and killed after he got out of his car and lunged at police with a knife.
The deaths came less than two weeks after the Capitol Police removed an outer fence that had temporarily cut off a wide swath of the area to cars and pedestrians, blocking major traffic arteries that cross the city. The fencing had been erected to secure the Capitol after the violent mob of of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters attacked the building Jan. 6., interrupting the certification of President Joe Biden's victory. The violence lead to the deaths of five people, including a Capitol Police officer.
Police, who took the brunt of the assaults that day, have left intact a second ring of fencing around the inner perimeter of the Capitol as they struggle to figure out how to best protect the building and those who work inside it. That tall, dark fencing — parts of it covered in razor wire until just recently -- is still a stark symbol of the fear many in the Capitol felt after the mob laid siege two months ago.
Lawmakers have almost universally loathed the fencing, saying the seat of American democracy was meant to be open to the people, even if there was always going to be a threat.
But after Friday’s attack, some said they needed to procced with caution.
“It’s an eyesore, it sucks,” Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio said about the fencing in the hours after the two deaths. “Nobody wants that there. But the question is, is the environment safe enough to be able to take it down? In the meantime, maybe that fence can prevent some of these things from happening.”
Ryan, chairman of a House spending committee that oversees security and the Capitol, stressed that no decisions had been made, and that lawmakers would be “reviewing everything" after the latest deadly incident. His committee and others are looking at not only the fence but at the staffing, structure, and intelligence capabilities of the Capitol Police.
“The scab got ripped off again here today,” Ryan said. “So we've got to figure this out.”
Despite the fencing, Friday's breach happened inside the perimeter. The driver slipped through a gate that had opened to allow traffic in and out of the Capitol and rammed a barrier that had protected the building long before Jan. 6. And there was no evidence that Green's actions were in any way related to the insurrection.
Still, it was a reminder that there is always a target on one of the country's most visible public buildings, especially as political tensions have risen since the insurrection and there has been broad public scrutiny of the security failures that day.
“This may just cause everybody to pump the brakes a bit on taking the fence down entirely because of the sense of security that it provides us,” said Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton of Virginia, another member of the spending panel that oversees the legislative branch.
As a lawmaker who represents the suburbs of Washington, Wexton said she wants to see the Capitol open again to visitors. While the indoor parts of the building have been closed to the public for the last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the plazas, roads and sidewalks that surround the Capitol were only cut off after the riot, keeping the public completely away from the area.
“I would like to see it come down at the earliest possible moment,” Wexton said of the fencing.
While lawmakers were initially supportive of the fencing to secure the area, and the thousands of National Guard troops sent to the Capitol to back up the overwhelmed police force, they soon said they were ready for a drawdown.
“I think we’ve overdone it,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky last month. “It looks terrible to have the beacon of our democracy surrounded by razor wire and National Guard troops.“