DC to require COVID-19 vaccination for indoor public spaces
Washington, D.C., will soon require proof of coronavirus vaccination to enter a number of indoor public spaces, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced Wednesday.
Beginning Jan. 15, patrons over the age of 12 will need to show proof of at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to enter places including restaurants, bars, nightclubs, theaters or gyms. Negative coronavirus tests will not be accepted.
Beginning Feb. 15, patrons must be fully vaccinated with two doses of an mRNA vaccine or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s shot. D.C. officials emphasized the requirement is for patrons only, not for staff. The new rules will not require booster shots.
Houses of worship, retail and grocery stores will be exempt. The vaccine requirement will also not apply to museums.
Earlier this week, Bowser announced a stricter vaccine mandate for all city employees and reinstated the city’s indoor mask mandate. She hinted further measures would be coming soon.
The moves come as D.C. has broken its own daily coronavirus case count record multiple times over the past week.
The vaccine requirement aligns D.C. with other cities that have already implemented or recently announced a vaccine requirement, such as New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston.
Businesses will be required to check for a copy of a vaccine record, like a photo or a printout, or a verification app.
“If you are a resident who is not yet vaccinated but wants to continue to enjoy these activities, now’s the time to get vaccinated,” Bowser said during a press briefing.
The staggered deadline is in part to help businesses implement the requirement, and also to finalize how it will be enforced. Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio said additional guidance would be coming by the end of next week.
The city is still working out how the rule will apply to office buildings, he said. Since it is not a mandate for workers, vaccines will likely be required for meetings and conference spaces open to the public, but not for private offices.
Bowser acknowledged some people are dug in to resisting vaccines, but said she thinks mandates will help.
“Mandates have the ability to move people who are not vaccinated to become vaccinated, and we also know that is a huge public health benefit,” she said.
“Even with all the interventions, we can still see elevated cases… But the fact that we can report the level of case rise we’ve experienced and have fewer people in the hospital than we had last month is remarkable, it’s a testament to how effective the vaccine is,” Bowser added.
In addition to the vaccine requirement for indoor businesses, Bowser said she will sign legislation adding the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of vaccinations required for all D.C. public, private, parochial and charter school students.
“This adds to the safety of our schools,” Bowser said.
Students will have 70 days to be vaccinated from the day they are eligible, and all students who are eligible will need to be fully vaccinated by March 1, she said. School personnel have had a vaccine requirement without a test-out option for the past few months, Bowser said.
“We urge parents right now to make a plan to have their children vaccinated even before the deadline,” Bowser said.