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Philadelphia to Require Proof of COVID-19 Vaccinations to Dine Indoors, Attend Sporting Events

On Dec. 13, 2021, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole announced that beginning Jan. 3, 2022, patrons of all restaurants, bars, and sports venues will be required to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination to enter. These requirements are similar to those recently adopted in other cities, including New York City and New Orleans.

With the return of winter, the continued number of the Delta-variant cases, and the emergence of the new Omicron variant, Mayor Kenney stated a need to “do more to protect our residents.” 

Philadelphia’s indoor mask mandate is still active for all businesses. Under that order, reinstituted in August 2021, mask use is mandatory for patrons and employees inside any business unless the business requires everyone who enters to be vaccinated. 

The Health Department has not issued a formal order yet detailing the requirements slated to start Jan. 3, 2022, but Dr. Bettigole stated that starting on that date, patrons and employees must show proof of vaccination to enter the following settings:

  • Indoor restaurants and bars;
  • Eating areas within larger spaces, such as food courts and museum cafes – and these areas should be cordoned off and subject to a check at the dividing mark;
  • The entirety of venues where food or drink is available for consumption, including sports arenas, theaters, and bowling alleys;
  • Halls where food is being served, including catering halls and convention spaces;
  • Casinos where food or drink is allowed on the floor.

To be admitted, children aged five years and three months through 11 years old must have one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Jan. 3, 2022, and their second dose by Feb. 3, 2022. 

As a transitional measure, between Jan. 3 and Jan. 17, 2022, a negative test – taken within 24 hours of entry – will satisfy the requirement. During that transitional period, masks will be required indoors for any establishment that does not require 100% of those inside to be vaccinated. After Jan. 17, those establishments must be 100% vaccinated. 

A carve-out applies for individuals with medical and religious exemptions and children under five years of age. Even after Jan. 17, 2022, however, individuals with exceptions will be required to show proof of a recent negative test when entering a venue that holds over 1,000 people. Because the order will also cover employees, they will be subject to an accommodation analysis under federal and Pennsylvania law.

Philadelphia’s regulations are different than those of surrounding counties because Gov. Tom Wolf’s State of Emergency expired in June 2021 after voters amended the Pennsylvania Constitution to require legislative consent for an extended state of emergency; the limited relevant legislative extensions have all expired. 

Dr. Bettigole stated that there is currently no end-date for this policy, noting that the Kenney administration will continuously monitor and reevaluate based on the situation in Philadelphia. The administration recommends Philadelphia residents get vaccinated, including booster shots for those who are eligible. 

For more information and updates on the developing situation, visit GT’s Health Emergency Preparedness Task Force: Coronavirus Disease 2019 and Business Continuity Amid COVID-19 page.