Philadelphia rolls out COVID-19 vaccination requirements for indoor dining establishments

Philadelphia has seen infection rates double in the last few weeks and hospitalizations increase by about 50%.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia officials announced Monday that proof of a COVID-19 vaccine will soon be required to eat inside a restaurant or food establishment. They said the mandate is meant to help prevent another shutdown of indoor dining.

Patrons will have to show their vaccination card and a form of government ID.

The rollout begins January 3, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said.

"Any place that sells food or drink to be consumed on-site will have to require that everyone who enters be fully vaccinated against COVID-19," she said.

For the first two weeks, January 3 to January 17, establishments may choose to accept proof of the negative COVID test in lieu of proof of vaccination.

"That negative COVID test must have been for the last 24 hours," Bettigole said.

After January 17, negative COVID-19 tests will no longer be accepted.

The city mandate allows some extra time for children ages 5-11 and employees to get vaccinated. The city is asking that those groups have a first dose by Jan. 3 and a second dose by Feb. 3.

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The requirement does not apply to people who are exempted from vaccination, including children under 5 or people with proven medical or religious exemptions, Bettigole said.

But those with exemptions and children between 2 and 5 years old will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test taken within 24 hours to enter establishments that seat more than 1,000 people covered by the requirement.

That includes sports venues, movie theatres, bowling alleys or spaces like museum cafes inside larger venues.

She added that establishments like schools, daycares and others like soup kitchens or shelters that serve vulnerable populations will not require vaccination proof or negative tests.

Bettigole said the mandate will apply to the Wells Fargo Center, home of the Flyers and 76ers, and other indoor sporting venues where people buy food and eat it in their seats.

"We've already hosted several events where proof of vaccination or proof of a negative test were required for all guests, so we're well prepared to comply with the city's new policy," Valerie Camillo, President of Business Operations for the Philadelphia Flyers and Wells Fargo Center, said in a statement.

The rules will not change for now at outdoor sporting events, but will apply to indoor areas and businesses inside Lincoln Financial Field, where the Eagles play, and similar venues.

"I don't want to close our restaurants or other establishments that serve food. I want them to stay open and operate safely," Bettigole said.

Bettigole said Philadelphia has seen infection rates double in the last few weeks and hospitalizations increase by about 50%.

According to data from the Action News Data Journalism Team, 75.8% of Philadelphia residents aged 18 and older are fully vaccinated.

Ben Fileccia, the spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, worries about employees becoming the city's "vaccine police" and the possible confrontations that could follow.

"I really would hope that the city provides resources and guidance for all those young frontline workers who are now responsible for enforcing the city's mandate," said Fileccia.

Reaction from the community has also been mixed after news of the mandate was announced.

"I enjoy eating out and if I have to be vaccinated, that's something I would do to continue doing what I like to do," said Beverly Rubin of Rittenhouse Square.

"I just think that you should really be able to have the choice in order to get in. I think that's a little extreme," added Maddie Brady of Center City.

Philly officials say the mandate applies to the following settings that serve food:

-Indoor restaurant spaces

-Cafes within larger spaces (like museums)

-Bars

-Sports venues that serve food or drink for onsite consumption (including the Wells Fargo Center)

-Movie theaters

-Bowling alleys

-Other entertainment venues that serve food or drink for onsite consumption

-Conventions (if food is being served)

-Catering halls

-Casinos where food and drink is allowed on the floor

-Food court seating areas should be cordoned off and have someone checking vaccine status on entry to the seating area
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