Vaccination will be required to patronize certain indoor establishments beginning at 6 a.m. Jan. 15, 2022 Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced at a press conference Wednesday.
Bowser said starting then, certain establishments, including restaurants, bars, gyms and theaters and concert halls will have to verify patrons have at least one dose of vaccine. On Feb. 15, that will go to a two dose requirement.
In addition, as per legislation passed by DC Council, beginning Mar. 1, 2022 all eligible students at all District schools (private, public and public chareter) must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The requirement was announced only two days after a COVID-19 Action Plan was presented. That plan included a re-imposition of the mask mandate starting 6 a.m. Tues, Dec. 20 and lasting until at least 6 a.m. Jan. 31; a new declaration of a state of emergency; school closures for testing after the new year and a requirement that DC Government employees be fully vaccinated and boosted against the COVID-19 virus.
Bowser told reporters that the vaccine requirement was also under consideration on Monday, “but it needed a little more work before we announced it.”
COVID Vaccine Requirement Presentation” size=”large” td_select_gallery_slide=”slide” ids=”32079,32080,32077,32076″]DC Health Patrick Ashley Senior Deputy Director said DC had seen a huge jump in its case rate, which is 9 times higher than 30 days ago, even as reports of Omicron cases are increasing in the region. While only 23 cases of the new variant had been reported so far, Ashley said he expected another 50 would be added after processing today. Those numbers will only increase, he added. In DC, unvaccinated people are 7 times more likely to get COVID, 15 times more likely to be hospitalized and 14 times more likely to die than vaccinated residents, Ashely said.
Good news, the Senior Director said, is there has been a five-day decrease in hospitalization rates. There’s also huge increase in testing demand.
Yesterday DC handed out 17,000 Test Yourself kits and is now trying to keep up with that demand. Testing turnaround time has increased from 1.5 day average to 2.6 days, DC Health said.
Lines stretched around the block as many DC Public Libraries started handing out free rapid antigen test kits Wednesday. Bowser said the District was looking at some crowd-control and staffing support for libraries. The decision to expands to more than 8 DC Public Library sites would be based on available supply, she added.
Presented with a concern that people might grab rapid tests and resell them, the Mayor said “they would get in lots of trouble,” noting there is limit of two rapid tests per resident and also that her emergency order allows for consumer protection measures.
DC has ordered another 5 million rapid antigen tests, for a total of 6 million. DC currently has 260,000 on hand.
Asked if the DC vaccine requirement is gov’t over-reach, Bowser said she doesn’t make these decisions lightly. “When you’re responding to a global pandemic, that is the exact time when the government needs to make decisions for society,” the Mayor said, adding that she sees it as an appropriate action.
Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio said regulations said the vaccine requirement is aimed at patrons at sites where customers go to gather in large groups. Grocery stores, retail, churches and museums are not considered to be places that people deliberately go to congregate, and so are not covered by the mandate, he said. Detailed guidance will be out at the end of next week/
Asked about equity concerns for businesses operating in neighborhoods with low vaccination rates, Bowser acknowledged that there is a disparate experience with vaccinations. “But that same disparity presents with hospitalization and deaths,” she said, “so we feel pretty right with making sure that opportunities to gather are as protected as they can be.”
Bowser recommended residents make safety considerations as they decide whether to attend holiday events, including knowing vaccine statuses of fellow guests, attending events in well-ventilated areas, keeping gatherings small, wearing masks, and testing to know COVID status.