What to Know About California’s Digital Vaccine Cards

Monday: State officials have said the card is not a vaccine passport. So what is it?

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California is offering residents access to a digital record of their coronavirus vaccinations.Credit…Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Good morning.

Don’t, state officials have said, call it a vaccine passport.

Residents won’t be required to carry the digital vaccination record that the state introduced last week. Businesses don’t have to ask for it. And you can still use your paper vaccine card if you want.

According to the state technology workers who created it, the digital record is simply a free tool for navigating a world in which you may be asked to show that you’ve been inoculated against Covid-19.

Millions of Californians have gotten their coronavirus vaccinations, Dr. Erica Pan, the state’s top epidemiologist, noted in a news conference Friday. “The odds are someone is going to misplace their paper vaccine card,” she said. “This is a backup.”

Still confused? Here’s what else you need to know:

How does this digital vaccine verification work?

If you’ve been vaccinated in California — not just against Covid-19, but for any disease — that inoculation should be recorded in the state’s immunization registry.

Essentially, when you plug in your name, birthday and contact information, the new system checks that information against the state’s registry. If you’re listed, you’ll be sent an email with a link to your digital Covid-19 vaccine card, which is accessible only with a PIN of your choosing.

Once you put in your PIN and access the card, it will allow you to digitally carry the same information that’s on your paper record, plus a QR code that you can screenshot and save.

You don’t need to download a separate app to get the record.

When might I need to use it?

Although businesses can largely decide whether to require patrons to show proof that they’ve been vaccinated if they want to enter without a mask, state officials said they expect that entertainment and sports venues may do so.

But Dr. Pan said that one of the most common instances in which Californians may want to quickly and officially show they’ve gotten vaccinated is when they’re traveling — particularly abroad.

“Many countries require proof of vaccination to enter,” she said.

Do other states have something similar?

New York recently introduced its Excelsior Pass, which vaccinated residents flash at Yankees and Mets games, as well as comedy clubs and a small number of bars and restaurants. But as my colleague Sharon Otterman reported earlier this month, many of those uses were expected to fall by the wayside as virus restrictions go away.

New York’s system was created by IBM, under a contract. California’s version was built by the state.

How do I know it’s secure?

Rick Klau, the state’s chief technology innovation officer, said in the Friday news conference that the state’s vaccine records had been created according to an open-source SMART Health Card framework developed by the Vaccine Credential Initiative, a coalition of public and private institutions meant to make it easier for various vaccine providers to give people access to their health records while also keeping that information safe.

For more:

Track California’s vaccination rates and case numbers.

Read about why experts say the term “vaccine passport” is misleading and about the debate over vaccine verification.

Get your own digital vaccine verification at myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov.

Here’s what else to know today

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One of the nation’s most progressive prosecutors, George Gascon of Los Angeles is facing a recall effort.Credit…Morgan Lieberman for The New York Times

George Gascon, the district attorney of Los Angeles, was propelled into office by grass-roots activists after the police killing of George Floyd. He’s now facing an intense backlash, including an effort to recall him, for enacting long-sought policies.

Election officials said that proposed rules written by Democrats could create confusion among voters and push the cost of the recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom past the current estimate of $215 million, The Los Angeles Times reports.

A moratorium on evictions did little to address the bigger problem: The country is running out of affordable places for people to live.

Global warming has been fueling disasters in the West for years. Now, an early heat wave and severe drought are threatening lives and leaving water in perilously short supply.

A San Bernardino sheriff’s deputy appears in a video to kick a man in the head even after the man has gotten on the ground and put his hands up, CBSLA reports.

The state was able to collect record-high child support debts thanks to stimulus payments and unemployment checks, CalMatters reports.

CalMatters looked at summer school this year in the state, during a time of record enrollment.

The U.S. is investing $3.1 billion in the development of a pill to treat the coronavirus.

A plane that was discovered in Folsom Lake in Northern California was thought to be tied to a 1960s mystery crash. But it turned out to be a different plane, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

A music writer for People sat down with his father and Los Tigres Del Norte to thank the band for helping him come out with their track “Era Diferente.”

And finally …

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Joni Mitchell’s “Blue”Credit…William P. O’Donnell/The New York Times

Joni Mitchell had been living a comfortable, domestic life with Graham Nash in Laurel Canyon when she booked a single plane ticket abroad, plunging her into an intercontinental journey that would inspire much of her LP “Blue,” my colleagues wrote in a piece published over the weekend to mark the album’s 50th anniversary.

Nash told them that Mitchell broke up with him by telegram: “She said, ‘If you squeeze sand in your hand, it will run through your fingers.’ I thought, got it. And that was it.”

But — speaking from experience — you need to know little of the personal stories behind “My Old Man” or “Little Green” to feel deeply when you listen to them. (And “California?” A perfect soundtrack for returning back to the Golden State from, well, anywhere else.)

Even if you’ve never listened to the album, some of your favorite artists probably have. In the story, 25 musicians talked about its power and its influence.

California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.

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