By Daniel Dale
Last week, some Republican lawmakers wrongly described Washington DC’s new proof-of-vaccination policy — incorrectly tweeting that the Democratic-run city is requiring people to show photo identification to buy milk or even to leave their homes.
Their inaccurate tweets, however, came after Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser herself used overly broad language in a tweet describing the policy. Bowser’s tweet could have led the senators and others astray, though the senators could certainly have verified the details before posting.
Bowser tweeted on Tuesday that starting Saturday, people age 18 and older would need three things “before heading out”: a mask, proof of vaccination and photo ID. (She wrote that people ages 12 through 17 would need the mask and proof of vaccination but not the photo ID.) The tweet concluded by saying people could get more information by clicking her link to a government website.
Two Republican senators amplified Bowser’s tweet in their own tweets. If they had clicked the link to get more information, however, they did not show it.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee said in a Wednesday tweet: “Liberal logic: you need a photo ID to buy milk but not to vote.”
Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said in a Tuesday tweet: “Dems think it’s racist to require voter ID but are happy to segregate the unvaxxed and require anyone leaving their home to have a photo ID, mask, and proof of vaccine.”
Facts First: Washington is not requiring photo ID or proof of Covid-19 vaccination from everyone leaving their home or from people buying groceries like milk. The new policy exempts grocery stores and other retail establishments, and it does not apply to people who are merely venturing outside their homes.
Rather, the policy requires people age 18 or older to show photo ID and proof of vaccination when entering certain indoor establishments: restaurants, bars, food halls and food courts, nightclubs, breweries, entertainment venues, exercise facilities and meeting facilities. (The policy says that people who are entering even these establishments for certain brief stops — to use a restroom, to pay, to pick up or place an order, or to get to an outdoor area — are not required to show proof of vaccination, but they must still wear masks while inside.)
It’s not hard to find the list of places covered by the policy: it is visible to anyone who visits the page to which Bowser tweeted a link. And clicking a link that is prominently featured on that page, in turn, brings up a document with even more details — such as the fact that grocery stores are exempt. (Someone who wanted to get milk at a non-exempt establishment like a restaurant or food court would have to show ID first, but Blackburn tweeted a much broader suggestion that people would generally need ID to buy milk in the city.)
The proof-of-vaccination policy commenced at 6 a.m., local time, on Saturday by requiring proof that someone has received one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Beginning on February 15, that will change to requiring proof that someone has received two doses of an mRNA vaccine like Pfizer’s and Moderna’s or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. From Saturday onward, people with medical or religious exemptions from vaccination must instead show proof of a negative test within the last 24 hours and documentation confirming the exemption.
Some other big Democratic-run cities, such as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston, also require evidence of vaccination from people entering restaurants, bars and some other venues. But none of these big cities requires proof of vaccination merely to leave one’s home or to shop at a grocery store.
Spokespeople for Johnson and Bowser did not respond to requests for comment. Blackburn’s office declined to comment.
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