PHILADELPHIA — Starting January 3, 2022, any establishment in Philadelphia that sells food and/or drink for consumption onsite may admit only those patrons who have completed their vaccine series against COVID-19. For the first two weeks of this mandate, January 3 through 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 January 17, negative COVID-19 tests can no longer be accepted in lieu of proof of vaccination. Staff and children aged five years and three months through 11 will be required to have had one dose of COVID-19 vaccine by January 3 and to complete their vaccine series by February 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 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:
- Children under five years and three months of age
- 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
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. This requirement does not apply to children under age two, who cannot be tested easily for COVID-19.
This vaccine mandate applies to places like:
- Indoor restaurant spaces
- Cafes within larger spaces (e.g., museum cafes)
- Sports venues that serve food or drink for onsite consumption
- 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
This vaccine mandate does not apply in places like:
- K-12 and early childcare settings
- Congregate care facilities or other residential or healthcare facilities
- Outdoor restaurant spaces
- Grocery stores, except in seated dining areas within those stores, convenience stores or other establishments that primarily sell food and other articles for offsite use
- Philadelphia International Airport, except in traditional seated restaurant or seated bar style locations
- Soup kitchens or other sites serving vulnerable populations (e.g., Hub of Hope)
- This mandate excludes masked individuals who are entering an indoor establishment for a short duration or transitory purpose (e.g., less than 15 minutes, picking up food, using the bathroom)
Food establishments who 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. The Health Department has published a blog post on the food establishment vaccine mandate here.