Tempe to require COVID-19 vaccinations at large events

Part of city’s data-driven response


The city of Tempe will require proof of full COVID-19 vaccination for large, ticketed, city-run events for the near future.

The Tempe City Council came to the conclusion during an Aug. 30 meeting after much discussion and after adjourning to discuss the legal ramifications with its city attorney during a private executive session. There will not be an option to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test instead of proof of vaccination and children under the age of 12, who are not yet eligible to receive any of the three approved vaccines, will not be allowed to attend these events.

The first test of the requirements will come Saturday at the city’s Boots in the Park event at Tempe Beach Park, featuring singer Jon Pardi.

Tempe City Council staffers recommended the mitigation measure because of the city’s high level of community transmission of COVID-19, spurred by the easily transmissible delta variant.

As of Thursday, the city has reported approximately 29,444 confirmed COVID-19 cases across its four ZIP codes since the pandemic began.

The council and its staff discussed on Aug. 30 loosening the restrictions once community spread begins to decline.

“Special events are integral to the Tempe community,” read the presentation. “Not only do they contribute to Tempe’s economic vitality by supporting local businesses; they enhance quality of life by fostering civic pride and identity, along with long-term sustainability and support of our strategic priorities. As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, the city of Tempe remains committed to making data-driven decisions, and this applies to the provision of many services including special events.”

“When the community transmission level reduces to moderate, special event-specific mitigation measures would be removed,” the report continued. “The required mitigation measures for all events would remain in place until both metrics reach a low community transmission level.”

For her part, Councilwoman Jennifer Adams said implementing the requirement was simply a matter of public safety and comfort.

“I like the idea of everyone that’s vaccinated can attend the concert and they show proof of vaccination,” she said during the session. “I would like to be able to do more things than we’re able to right now but unfortunately we have people that are resisting the vaccines for whatever reason. But I would be very comfortable, much more comfortable in fact, with making everyone show proof of vaccination before entering that concert.”

The group also discussed religious or medical exemptions for receiving the vaccine and allowing them to present proof of a negative test.

Asked if there has been any public backlash to the decision since it was announced, city spokeswoman Nikki Ripley said, “there are some individuals that have emailed the council.”

Ripley reiterated the decision was narrowly focused on large, gated and ticketed events. Non-gated events, such as festivals or block parties, won’t have the requirement in place, but will likely encourage masks and social distancing. Those events also will likely have educational signs about preventing illness and receiving the vaccine, hand-washing stations and other mitigation efforts. The city of Tempe currently requires face coverings in city facilities.

Ripley also pointed to 17 Arizona independent music venues that have made proof of vaccination a requirement to attend concerts, a list that includes Marquee Theatre in Tempe, The Orpheum, Celebrity Theatre, Valley Bar, Crescent Ballroom, The Rebel Lounge, The Nash and more bars across the state. But these venues will offer attendees the option to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test at least 72 hours before the event. The new requirements will start by or before Sept. 20.

“We are taking this necessary step for Arizona’s music fans to ensure that all concerts this fall can happen as scheduled,” read a joint statement from the venues. “We have a responsibility to our community and there are expectations for all who want to participate in activities in which they share an environment with other people.”

The situation surrounding the city’s vaccine requirement remains fluid, as it has throughout the pandemic. The city council discussed revisiting the matter when community transmission has decreased, something Ripley also pointed to.

“They said that they would revisit at a future time as the city’s done throughout COVID making decisions based on data and the environment that’s present at the time,” she said.