The country is on high alert as the Omicron variant begins its rapid spread throughout the U.S.—all while the Delta surge continues to run rampant. With COVID far from contained, health officials are doing everything in their power to try to prevent outbreaks. For some, that’s meant a return to mask mandates, and for others, stricter laws concerning what activities require proof of vaccination. As cities prepare for a spike in COVID cases, some are introducing new restrictions on unvaccinated residents.
On Dec. 13, Philadelphia health officials announced that proof of vaccination will be required for all indoor dining, starting on Jan. 3, per local ABC affiliate WPVI-TV. For the first two weeks of the new policy, unvaccinated people will be able to provide a negative COVID test instead, but as of Jan. 17, proof of vaccination—along with a government ID—will be the only way to eat inside at restaurants and other food establishments.
Children and employees will have a little more time to comply, WPVI-TV reports. Kids aged 5 to 11 and workers must get their first COVID vaccine dose by Jan. 3, and their second by Feb. 3.
Philadelphia’s new vaccine mandate does not just apply to indoor dining, however. According to CNN, unvaccinated individuals will also be barred from bars, entertainment venues, movie theaters, and other indoor locations where food is served in January.
Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole, MD, said at a press conference announcing the mandate that COVID infection rates have doubled in Philadelphia over the past few weeks, and hospitalizations have increased by 50 percent, per WPVI-TV. Health officials say the new mandate is being implemented in part to make sure that indoor dining can stay open.
Philadelphia is only the latest city to introduce a new policy requiring proof of vaccination. While New York City’s “Key to NYC” vaccine mandate has been in place since September, as CNN notes, it was expanded in December. The NYC Health website states that the mandate now includes children 5 to 11, who must be fully vaccinated by Jan. 28. Everyone else must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 27.
Los Angeles and San Francisco both have vaccine mandates of their own, according to CNN, with proof of vaccination required for entry to indoor restaurants and venues. Philadelphia is following San Francisco’s lead in not allowing unvaccinated people to test out of the requirement. As San Francisco’s official website states, “You cannot use a self-attestation of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. You must have proof that you are vaccinated.”
Meanwhile, Philadelphia is working to mitigate the spread of COVID before the vaccine mandate goes into effect. On Dec. 15, Bettigole urged residents to avoid in-person gatherings over the holidays, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. “We’re now entering what could be the most dangerous time since last winter,” Bettigole said at a press conference. “Please do not get together with other households for Christmas, or if you do, keep those gatherings small.”