Boston-area businesses reluctant to consider vaccine verification

BOSTON — Throughout the pandemic, there had been a lot of talk about businesses potentially requiring proof of vaccination once the Commonwealth of Massachusetts fully reopened. There hasn’t been much of that happening since May, and, for now, it appears it’s going to stay that way in the Boston area.

However, a growing list of businesses in Provincetown are now enforcing vaccine verification and masks after an advisory that was issued on Monday. The measure was put in place as health officials investigate a cluster of more than 130 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases connected to the town mainly involving vaccinated people.

“Up until now, we haven’t seen an outbreak quite like this,” said Dr. Shira Doron, a Tufts Medical Center epidemiologist. “This was not expected. You couldn’t have predicted this.”

Related: Boston asks Provincetown visitors to isolate, get COVID-19 test

How the spread happened is still unknown. The state lab is currently sequencing the specimens to see if it involves the Delta variant or another variant of concern.

Provincetown has been packed with visitors from different states and countries in recent weeks. Some of those travelers are coming from areas with lower vaccination rates.

Doron told Boston 25 News that early research has shown unvaccinated people who contract COVID-19 typically have a higher viral load than those who are vaccinated. She said that potentially presents a greater likelihood of transmitting the virus to others.

“On average, it appears vaccine breakthrough cases have a lower viral load than unvaccinated cases,” Doron explained.

Travis Dagenais, a South Boston resident who contracted COVID-19 while visiting Provincetown for the Fourth of July, said he’s glad to hear that more businesses there are now requiring proof of vaccination. He believes businesses in the Boston area and elsewhere in the state should at least be considering the same.

“I would have made different personal decisions had I known there were unvaccinated people in the crowd,” Dagenais said. “I think it would be so much stronger and so much more effective for people if there was something with more teeth, if we had actual checks for proof of vaccination more often.”

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Boston 25 News checked with 20 different Boston-area businesses in the restaurant and nightlife industry over the last three days. All declined to speak on the record about the topic, but none had any plans of requiring proof of vaccination for entry.

Businesses owners also said, as long as it’s up to them, they don’t foresee any plans of requiring customers to wear masks.

“It has not been proven definitively that mask mandates help to control rising cases. Masks prevent transmission, but that’s different,” Doron added. “Transmission is often happening in areas that are behind closed doors that are private gatherings that wouldn’t be impacted by mask mandates.”

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