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The added mandates come as the omicron variant of the coronavirus is surging.
A growing number of major U.S. cities are moving to require people entering indoor spaces like restaurants, bars and gyms to show proof that they're vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Washington, D.C., Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia are among the places that announced these types of measures in recent days. Other places, including New York City, King County, Washington, where Seattle is located, San Francisco and Los Angeles, already had requirements along these lines in place. The new mandates come as the highly contagious omicron variant of Covid-19 is surging.
"When you're responding to a global pandemic, that is the exact time when the government needs to make some decisions for the whole society," D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said during a press conference on Wednesday, responding to a question about whether the mandate was overreach. "This is an appropriate action."
"I think it will help more people get vaccinated," she added, saying that mandates for people such as health care workers and school personnel led to more people getting the Covid-19 vaccine.
The District's new policy for entering indoor spaces, unveiled Wednesday, will go into effect on Jan. 15, with people ages 12 and older required to show proof they've had at least one shot by that time to enter places covered by the rules. The policy covers facilities such as restaurants, coffee shops, bars, concert venues, movie theaters, gyms and gathering places for conferences.
The new mandates will not apply to all indoor establishments. For example, there are exemptions for places like churches, retailers and grocery stores. Bowser explained that D.C. was planning to create a carveout for situations where people are passing in and out of a business quickly, such as when they're picking up take-out food.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady acknowledged in a statement that the new requirement "will not eliminate Covid risk."
"But it will help ensure a much safer indoor environment for fully vaccinated Chicagoans, as well as for the employees working in these higher-risk settings," Arwady added. "As we head further into the winter months, we must take this step now.”
Philadelphia on Dec. 13 announced a vaccine requirement for entry into many establishments that serve food and drink, including not only restaurants but also places like sports venues and casinos. The Philadelphia mandate is set to begin on Jan. 3.
"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,” the city's health commissioner, Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, noted in a statement at that time. "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."
Bill Lucia is a senior editor for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.