Dec 13, 2021 - News

Philly will require proof of COVID vaccination to enter restaurants

Illustration of a rope barrier with a vaccination card hanging from the rope section.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Philadelphia restaurants, bars, sports venues and several other establishments that sell food and beverages on-site will require proof of COVID-19 vaccination, beginning Jan. 3.

Driving the news: Mayor Jim Kenney and the city's Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole announced the mandate — which also applies to movie theaters, casinos and food courts — on Monday.

  • "With winter right around the corner, we must do more to protect our residents," Kenney said.

Zoom out: Philly joins a handful of other cities that already mandate proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, such as San Francisco and New York City.

Yes, but: There is a grace period. A negative COVID-19 test within the last 24 hours will be accepted for the first two weeks.

  • After Jan. 17, only proof of vaccination will be accepted.
  • Exemptions include K-12 schools and early child care settings, hospitals, Philadelphia International Airport, grocery stores, convenience stores and other establishments that primarily sell food for off-site use.

Details: Children ages 5 and 3 months to 11 are required to have one vaccine dose by Jan. 3 and their second by Feb. 3.

  • Children under 5 and people with medical or religious exemptions will be allowed to dine indoors, but must show proof of a negative test if the venue holds more than 1,000 people.
  • Attendees at the Wells Fargo Center will have to show proof of vaccination. The mandate also applies to indoor-only restaurants at other sports venues like Lincoln Financial Field and Citizens Bank Park.

State of play: The announcement follows Philadelphia's first Omicron case confirmed earlier this month. Bettigole said a few more have been confirmed since, but the majority of COVID-19 cases in the city involve the Delta variant.

  • The city is seeing a sharp uptick in cases, with the positivity rate doubling within the last month to 6%.

What they're saying: Bettigole said positive cases jumped after Thanksgiving. She's urging people to be more careful as the holidays near.

  • "We don't want to close our restaurants, so that's the reason for the vaccine mandate," Bettigole said.

What to watch: Businesses are in charge of checking vaccination status. The city will inspect for compliance if there has been a formal complaint filed through its 311 line. The city will also check through regular food and safety inspections.

  • Establishments will receive a warning on the first offense but could eventually be fined up to $2,000 for violations, Bettigole said.

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