Jan 18, 2022 - COVID

D.C. prepared to enforce indoor vaccine mandate

A poster with details of the vaccine requirement inside a restaurant

Photo: Cuneyt Dil/Axios

The District is prepared to enforce its new indoor vaccine mandate, officials said on the weekend the new rules took effect, but educating small businesses about the guidelines is the city’s first priority.

Why it matters: The proof-of-vaccination requirement to dine indoors, enter gyms, and go inside many other businesses was introduced to boost vaccination rates and prevent the spread of COVID-19 when going out.

  • The city will send crews to restaurants and businesses to “lead with education, compliance, and enforcement,” said deputy mayor for planning and economic development John Falcicchio.
  • After verbal and written warnings for the first two violations of the mandate, the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration can levy fines of $1,000 and $2,000.
  • With previous mandates, “we’ve dealt with this before, where a business has said, ‘We’re not going to do it,’ and ultimately they do comply,” Falcicchio said.

What they’re saying: But the added step of asking patrons to show vaccine cards is another rule for restaurants to enforce with their patrons, said Kathy Hollinger, head of the ​​Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington.

  • “I would be dishonest if I said it is not burdensome,” she said last Friday at a press conference with Falcicchio a day before the mandate went into effect.

Since Saturday, anyone aged 12 and over in D.C. must have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine — meaning one Pfizer or Moderna shot or the Johnson & Johnson shot — to gain entry to those places covered by the mandate.

  • By Feb. 15, they must be fully vaccinated, meaning having received two Pfizer or Moderna shots or one Johnson & Johnson shot, to gain entry.

What’s next: Montgomery County lawmakers are considering legislation to match the District’s vaccine mandate, but its prospects for approval are uncertain. D.C.’s mandate was put in place by Mayor Muriel Bowser.

  • Hollinger said the restaurant association did not take a position on vaccine mandates. She said a survey of restaurants across the region found a “mixed bag” of views on the topic.

Virginia does not have a similar state mandate for masks and vaccinations in public and local officials cannot implement their own mandate.

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