D.C. will require proof of vaccination at restaurants, gyms and several other types of establishments as daily COVID-19 case counts hit dramatic new highs, the mayor announced Wednesday.
The District requested assistance from the D.C. National Guard to assemble self-test kits, Mayor Muriel Bowser also said at a news conference Wednesday.
D.C. reported 1,524 new positive COVID cases on Wednesday, bringing the city up to 77,661 positive cases.
Proof of vaccination will be required starting Jan. 15 at:
- Movie theaters
- Entertainment venues
- Sports venues and
- Indoor exercise sites
Patrons age 12 and older will need to show proof of one dose starting Jan. 15. They will need to show starting on Feb. 15 that they are fully vaccinated.
While patrons of these sites will have to be vaccinated, the mayor’s order does not include employees. The mayor said she is relying on the federal requirement for employees of businesses of a certain size to be vaccinated.
Places that will be exempt will include:
- Grocery stores
- Universities and
Offices with large meeting spaces may have to comply with the requirement. Fast food restaurants might be exempt.
Bowser said she will release additional details next week. The mayor’s office is working on a system to address how to treat people who have a legitimate medical or religious exemption from vaccination.
The rule is targeted at indoor places where people congregate, said Patrick Ashley, a senior deputy director at DC Health.
One journalist asked Bowser if she was concerned about government overreach and “Big Brother intruding on your life.”
“I don’t make any of these decisions lightly, because I don’t want Big Brother intruding on my life,” the mayor replied. “I like to make my own decisions. But I also recognize that 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.”
Patrons can show their vaccine cards, a copy or a photo of it, a printout of their immunization record or their information in a COVID-19 verification app, such as VaxYes or CLEAR.
All D.C. students — including those in D.C. Public Schools, charter schools and private schools — who are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines must show proof of vaccination by March 1. The D.C. Council passed an act earlier this month requiring the vaccinations.
Students will have 70 days from their date of eligibility to get vaccinated. Enforcement will begin in the 2022-2023 school year, the mayor’s presentation said.
D.C.’s daily COVID-19 case rate is nine times higher now than it was 30 days ago, Ashley said. D.C. had 13.7 cases per 100,000 residents a month ago and has 123.8 cases for that amount of the population now.
So far, 25 cases of the omicron variant have been confirmed in D.C. Labs are working to confirm another 50 possible cases.
The District averaged more than 1,200 new cases of the virus on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, according to the most recent data. The daily case rate was under 350 just weeks earlier.
D.C. reinstated its indoor mask mandate on Tuesday. Face coverings are required in offices, gyms, stores, entertainment venues, houses of worship, restaurants (except for people who are actively eating or drinking) and other establishments.
Masks have been required in schools, health care facilities and on public transit, and those requirements will continue.
Bowser declared a new public health emergency on Monday, saying it was necessary to fight new cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
The mayor said she understands many residents’ fatigue with COVID safety precautions.
“I think we’re all tired of it. I’m tired of it too. But we have to respond to what’s happening in our city and what’s happening in our nation," she said.
Stay with NBC Washington for more details on this developing story.