[co-author: Laura Spector]*
In response to the rapid influx of cases of COVID-19 variants over the course of the holiday season, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser recently announced further city efforts to contain the spread of the virus. In addition to reinstating the district’s mandate for indoor masks (which was briefly lifted), the mayor issued an order mandating a citywide inoculation requirement (“VaxDC” or “the mandate”), requiring covered establishments to monitor customers’ vaccination status. as a condition of participation.
When does the mandate start?
The mandate, effective January 15, 2021 at 6 a.m., requires indoor facilities to ensure that customers 12 years and older receive at least the first dose of a two-dose vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) or a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine (Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine).
By February 15, 2022, all visitors and guests to indoor facilities must show proof that they have been fully vaccinated, which is defined as having received the “full undergraduate course” of a vaccine. Booster shots or other supplemental doses of the vaccine are not required.
Which branches are covered?
The mandate covers indoor food and beverage outlets, indoor cultural and entertainment venues, indoor sports and recreational venues, and indoor event and meeting facilities.
Indoor food and beverage outlets include all DC restaurants, bars, coffee shops and seated fast food restaurants, wineries and distillery tasting rooms and mixed-use facilities and food courts.
Indoor cultural and entertainment venues include movie theaters, nightclubs, hookah bars, pool and billiard halls, cigar bars, concerts, sports venues, and other entertainment venues.
Indoor sports and recreation facilities include fitness facilities, dance, yoga and Pilates studios and all other facilities used for group fitness classes.
Indoor event and meeting locations include common areas of hotels, banquet halls, meeting facilities of conference centers, convention centers, auditoriums, shared work facilities and any other indoor facilities designated by the Ministry of Health. While the term “shared work facilities” has not been further defined, it is believed that the mandate does not extend to private office buildings, but instead refers to shared or communal work facilities.
What is not covered by the mandate?
Mayor Bowser’s order contains a number of important exemptions for facilities and individuals. It is important that the mandate only applies to guests, visitors and customers and not to: Staff members of indoor facilities. It also exempts individuals who are only briefly entering a facility for a “quick and limited purpose” such as placing or collecting a takeout order, making a delivery, or using the restroom. The mandate also excludes from the definition of “covered establishment”:
- houses of worship;
- Supermarkets and Farmers Markets;
- Pharmacies, medical offices, urgent care centers or hospitals;
- big box stores and retail stores;
- Private meeting rooms in homes or office buildings;
- Provisions for public and government regulation; and
- Polling stations during elections.
Persons who are entitled to reasonable allowance for vaccination requirements because of a medical condition or a genuine religious belief are not required to adhere to the mandate. However, VaxDC does not provide guidance on how covered employers should approach verification of individual adjustments.
Fulfilling the mandate
From January 15, 2022, indoor businesses must verify vaccination status before allowing guests or visitors access to any indoor area of the business. The following are considered sufficient to show evidence of vaccination:
- An original or a photocopy or photograph of a CDC-issued vaccination card;
- A printout of the immunization record from their vaccine/healthcare provider’s patient portal; or
- A COVID-19 verification app like VaxYes or CLEAR.
The mandate does not require facilities to verify ID in addition to a vaccination certificate, although Mayor Bowser advised at a press conference on December 22, 2021 that facilities must also verify a photo ID to ensure the name on the vaccine card matches the person’s ID .
All indoor establishments must also inform visitors of the required inoculation in a prominent place at their entrances. City officials have advised companies to call in private security or call the police if confronted by individuals refusing to comply with the mandate.