Philadelphia to require patrons of food establishments be fully vaccinated against COVID-19

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Philadelphia on Monday introduced a new mandate requiring that, beginning in January, individuals be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter "any establishment that serves food" in the city. 

The city said Monday that starting Jan. 3, Philadelphia establishments that sell food or drink for consumption onsite will require that everyone who enters has "completed their COVID vaccinations."

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Philadelphia defined completing vaccinations as having received two doses of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The mandate also requires employees of restaurants and food establishments, as well as children age 5 years and 3 months through 11, to have at least one dose of the COVID vaccine by Jan. 3, and to complete their vaccine series by Feb. 3.

The city said for the first two weeks of the order, restaurants "may choose to accept proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of entry for people who are not fully vaccinated."

The city, though, said that exception "will end" on Jan. 17, and all patrons "will need to be fully vaccinated" to enter food establishments.

Philadelphia’s order applies to indoor restaurant spaces, cafes within larger spaces – museums, bars, sports venues, movie theaters, bowling alleys, other entertainment venues, conventions – if food is being served, catering halls, casinos where food and drink are allowed on the floor, and food court seating areas.

The new mandate, however, will not be applied in K-12 schools and early child care settings, hospitals, congregate care facilities, special population providers that serve food, residential or health care facilities, grocery stores, convenience stores, or other establishments that primarily sell food and drink for offsite use. 

The mandate also will not cover Philadelphia International Airport – except in traditional seated restaurant or bar-style locations.

The city said, though, that people with proof of "valid religious or medical exemptions and children under 5 years and 3 months are exempt from the mandate." 

The city said Monday’s announcement gives individuals "five weeks to get fully vaccinated and help us all get past this winter wave and closer to a COVID-free Philadelphia."

Philadelphia’s mandate comes as a number of cities and states implemented COVID-related measures amid the threat posed by the omicron variant.

On Monday, a new mask mandate went into effect in New York – requiring that individuals wear face coverings inside all indoor public places.

The new measure, which New York Gov. Kathy Hochul introduced last week, brings "added layers of mitigation" during the holiday season, state health officials said, arguing that during this time of year, "more time is spent indoors shopping, gathering and visiting holiday-themed destinations."

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The new mandate is set to expire on Jan. 15, 2022 – when Hochul’s administration will "re-evaluate next steps."

Earlier this month, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued what he called, a "preemptive strike," mandating that all private sector employees in the Big Apple be vaccinated against COVID-19 amid the new threat posed by the omicron variant.

That mandate takes effect on Dec. 27, and will apply to roughly 184,000 businesses.

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De Blasio’s office also broadened "Key to NYC," its program requiring proof of vaccination for indoor dining, fitness and entertainment – expanding the measure to include 5- to 11-year-olds.

Beginning Dec. 14, the program will require children aged 5-11 to show proof of one vaccination dose for those venues, and starting Dec. 27, New Yorkers aged 12 and older will be required to show proof of two vaccine doses, instead of one, except for those who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

New York City first implemented a mandate in August requiring patrons and employees of indoor restaurants to show proof of vaccination before entering.

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