Yelp is today adding a new field where businesses can specify whether or not they require customers to have received the COVID-19 vaccine before dining there. They’ll also be able to mark on their listing whether or not all staff members have received the vaccine themselves.
The new listing categories come at a pivotal time for indoor dining policy in the United States. The highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading at a rapid pace across the country, and vaccination numbers are still far too low for comfort. As much as we’re all very much ready to go back to “normal,” it’s looking like restaurants will be forced to deal with coronavirus precautions for the foreseeable future.
Vaccination is a surprisingly loaded topic in the U.S., in no small part thanks to anti-vaccine misinformation spreading across various social media channels. Many see mandating vaccinations for indoor activities like dining as both a public health measure and as an incentive for the unvaccinated to finally go get the jab. Yelp’s new listing options should hopefully make navigating indoor dining less confusing for consumers.
Continued protections — Though the COVID-19 vaccines have been proven safe (and effective) many times over, misinformation and outright conspiracy theories about them continue to thrive on the internet. This has stalled the United States’ vaccination momentum and turned internet discourse around vaccination into a full-on battleground.
Yelp understands that, in this environment, businesses requiring vaccination may receive some hate. The company is offering some protection for businesses that list their vaccination requirements on their Yelp profiles. As with other recent new labels, the company says it is “proactively monitoring” pages to ensure businesses don’t experience review-bombing.
And it seems to be working — Yelp has been working overtime to ensure its platform is helpful for businesses and customers alike, even amid a very tumultuous couple of years. The company’s content guidelines have long required that reviews be based on first-hand consumer experiences, but lately, Yelp has taken extra precautions to ensure people aren’t just leaving “reviews” wherein they simply rag on the restaurant for requiring a vaccine.
Since January of this year, Yelp has removed more than 8,000 reviews for violating these terms. Additionally, the company has placed more than 100 “unusual activity alerts” on pages where review-bombing is suspected.
Of course, all this vaccine angst directed at restaurants would be much easier to control if the U.S. simply mandated the vaccine for indoor dining across the country. That kind of public health reform seems nigh impossible for the U.S., though… so Yelp’s help will have to do in the meantime.