Vaccine mandate soon to come for all Philadelphia restaurants

by Tom Beck
Posted 12/16/21

The City of Philadelphia announced on Monday morning that starting Jan. 3, 2022, any establishment in Philadelphia that sells food and/or drink for consumption onsite may only admit patrons who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

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Vaccine mandate soon to come for all Philadelphia restaurants

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The City of Philadelphia announced on Monday morning that starting Jan. 3, 2022, any establishment in Philadelphia that sells food and/or drink for consumption onsite may only admit patrons who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

For the first two weeks of the mandate from Jan. 3-17, establishments may choose to accept proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of entry in lieu of proof of vaccination. After Jan. 17, negative COVID-19 tests can no longer be accepted. Staff and children aged five years and three months through 11 will be required to have had one dose of COVID-19 vaccine by Jan. 3 and to complete their vaccine series by Feb. 3.

“We’ve come an incredibly long way, but there is still work to be done to get Philadelphia through the pandemic,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “New cases and hospitalizations are rising, and we must do more to protect our residents. The City’s indoor mask mandate helped us control case rates this fall, so we are rolling out a complementary vaccine mandate for food establishments, where masking is not feasible. If you have not yet completed your vaccination series, you can start this week and you’ll be covered by the time the new policy goes fully into effect. Best of all, you’ll be better protected against COVID-19 and helping our city get closer to the end of this pandemic. ” 

The mandate is similar to what is currently in place in New York City.

“The most dangerous situation in the pandemic at this point is when someone is unmasked and around people from other households, eating or drinking indoors,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole. “Philadelphia’s indoor mask mandate and high vaccination rates have helped keep our case rates lower than most counties in Pennsylvania but our case rates have doubled in just the last 10 days, which means we need to do more—and quickly. We want our city’s businesses to stay open and operate safely, which means making sure that everyone who will be taking their mask off to eat or drink in public has been vaccinated. Today’s announcement will help reduce the risk of spreading COVID across the city.”

Certain people who cannot be vaccinated are exempted from this requirement, including children under five years and three months of age and people with signed medical exemptions from a licensed practitioner.

People with religious exemptions, who have attested in writing that they have a sincerely held religious belief that prevents them from being vaccinated, are also exempt from this requirement.

However, anyone who is exempted will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of entry into an establishment that seats 1,000 or more people. But the requirement does not apply to children under age two, who cannot be tested easily for COVID-19.

The vaccine requirement is only for institutions that sell food indoors like restaurants, cafes, bars, sports venues, movie theaters, bowling alleys, conventions, catering halls and casinos.

It will not be enforced in restaurants’ outdoor eating areas, hospitals, childcare settings, grocery stores and the Philadelphia International Airport. It also won’t be enforced in soup kitchens or other sites serving vulnerable populations. 

Food establishments that are not in compliance with this vaccine mandate or the indoor mask mandate can be reported by calling 311.

Philadelphia, like the rest of the region, state, and country, is seeing a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations as colder weather begins and holiday gatherings are held. The Health Department tracks these rising cases and hospitalizations on the Testing dashboard of the city’s COVID-19 website.

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