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Patterson becomes first Stanislaus County city to require this COVID safety measure

The Modesto Bee logoThe Modesto Bee 10/5/2021 Kristin Lam, The Modesto Bee

Oct. 4—Anyone attending a Patterson City Council meeting in person must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a recent negative test result starting Tuesday.

Patterson is the first Stanislaus County city to require such documentation and City Manager Ken Irwin said the council feels it is the safest way to physically open meetings.

All council members, city staff and the public must show identification plus vaccination or a negative test taken within three days to enter the chambers, Irwin said in an email. People can still participate remotely via teleconference on Zoom, per the meeting agenda. But Tuesday marks the first Patterson council meeting physically open to the public since February 2020, before the first California stay-at-home order for the coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Dennis McCord pointed to Patterson's vaccination rate—the highest in the county, according to data released last Tuesday—as a reason for the safety measure. Among residents eligible for the the vaccine, 65% are fully vaccinated, per county public health. The majority of Patterson's 23,000 residents who want to attend the meeting likely can, McCord said.

"I think because Patterson actually takes COVID seriously, that is why we have this requirement," McCord said.

McCord further cited Patterson's lower COVID-19 case and death rate compared to other cities in Stanislaus County. How coronavirus vaccination reduces risk for serious illness and the older age of council members also influenced the decision, McCord said. The council discussed the precautions, including mask and social distancing requirements, during its Sept. 7 meeting.

To attend in person, the public must also make reservations with the City Clerk's Office by 5 p.m. the day before any scheduled council meeting. Reservations are first come, first served, per the meeting agenda.

About 14 members of the public can go, Irwin said, although the maximum depends on how many staff and consultants need to attend. Two people had reserved seats to attend Tuesday's meeting as of Monday morning, Irwin said.

Patterson is not the first California city to start a vaccination policy for council meetings. The Hayward City Council in the Bay Area has required proof of vaccination to physically attend meetings since last week and does not accept negative tests as an alternative. McCord said he was not aware of any other city inspiring Patterson's requirement, however.

No other Stanislaus County city has announced vaccine or testing requirements for their upcoming or most recent council meetings. Modesto, Turlock, Ceres, Riverbank and Hughson hold hybrid meetings, allowing the public to participate in-person or via teleconference. The public can make comments at Oakdale and Waterford meetings in-person, but both cities do not currently offer teleconference participation.

The Newman City Council has yet to physically open meetings to members of the public, who can join through Zoom. Officials have conducted meetings remotely instead of gathering in chambers, which other cities did previously. Councils can continue meeting virtually by following rules in Assembly Bill 361, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last month.

To reserve seats at Patterson council meetings, contact the City Clerk's office at (209) 895-8014 or cityclerk@ci.patterson.ca.us by 5 p.m. the day before a scheduled meeting.

This story was originally published October 4, 2021 3:04 PM.

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