Will California have a fourth COVID wave and vaccine passports?

An illustration of a United States Passport with a COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card in San Diego, California, Thursday, March 11, 2021. Spain, Georgia, Greece, and Denmark will allow international travelers who have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by Rishi Deka/Sipa USA

CDC director Rochelle Walensky says COVID-19 cases overall are up about 10% nationwide compared to last week, and big increases are happening in Michigan, New York and New Jersey.

California and LA County officials are also sounding the alarm, warning people not to gather for Easter, Passover, and Spring Break. But the number of new cases in Southern California is still declining, and nearly 30% of statewide residents are vaccinated. 

Whether California can avoid a fourth wave of coronavirus cases might depend on the speed of more vaccinations, according to Dr. Lee Riley or UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health. 

“We should not be relaxing the restrictions, because this is exactly what we did last summer and look what happened,” Riley says. “This is going to be a race between how quickly we can vaccinate as many people as we can, versus how quickly these variants are spreading.” 

Meanwhile, airlines, hotels, cruise ships, and foreign countries are signaling they might demand proof you’ve gotten your shots. Enter the vaccine passport. 

“We can think about it as just the certified document attesting to the fact that someone has completed their necessary vaccinations,” says Richard Carpiano, professor of public policy and sociology at UC Riverside.