Philly vaccine mandate starts Monday for indoor dining

Indoor dining reopens in Philadelphia
REUTERS/Hannah Beier

Philadelphia’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for indoor dining takes effect Monday, as the city continues to deal with a surge in cases likely caused by the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

The requirement — which applies to customers and staff — covers restaurants, bars, cafes, concert venues, catering halls, theaters and indoor arenas, including the Wells Fargo Center, as well as most establishments serving food inside.

For the next two weeks, through Jan. 17, businesses can elect to accept a negative COVID-19 test result from the previous 24 hours in lieu of checking inoculation cards. After that date, only those with proof of vaccination can be admitted, according to the regulations.

Kids under the age of 5, who are not eligible for the shot, are exempted from the mandate and may still dine with their guardians indoors at restaurants. However, children between the ages of 3 and 5, as well as anyone with signed medical or religious exemption paperwork, must test negative before attending an indoor event with a crowd of 1,000 or more.

Children aged 5 to 11 must have also received their first dose by Monday, and be fully vaccinated by Feb. 3, in order to continue dining within city limits. Only about 25% of that age group in Philadelphia has received the vaccine.

Staff at facilities that fall under the mandate must also meet that same time frame, being fully vaccinated by Feb. 3.

Booster doses do not factor into the mandate, meaning only an initial round of shots or a single Johnson & Johnson vaccine is required.

Schools, hospitals and soup kitchens are carved out of the regulations.

People who are unvaccinated will still be able to enter an establishment for a short period of time — for example, to pick up take-out.

Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration announced the mandate Dec. 13 in light of rising infection numbers and worries over spread at holiday gatherings.

About 746 people with COVID-19 are hospitalized in Philadelphia, as of last Thursday, when health department data was last updated, up from 509 patients on Dec. 27 and 422 on Dec. 23.

The number of new cases has risen sharply in the city since the beginning of December, with around 25% of test results coming back positive over the last two weeks, according to the health department.

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