Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced new proof of vaccination requirements for restaurants and other indoor venues including gyms and theaters on Monday.
She also said all city employees must be vaccinated along that same timeline, eliminating a weekly testing option that had existed previously.
“This is just one step in an aggressive approach the city has already been working hard to implement,” Wu said. “It is absolutely a necessary one. We’re ready to take this step forward to protect our residents.”
The proof of vaccination requirement for indoor venues will go into effect starting Jan. 15 for everyone ages 12 and up. All patrons and employees will be required to show proof that they have received at least one dose of vaccine. Beginning Feb. 15, everyone will have to show proof of two doses. Starting in March, children will be required to be vaccinated as well.
The proof of vaccination requirement covers three categories:
- Indoor dining, including bars and restaurants
- Indoor fitness venues like gyms
- Indoor entertainment, recreational and event venues, including theater shows or sports games
Wu said this will not affect outdoor dining or outdoor events like First Night Boston.
“For too many months and years, our businesses have been forced to act on their own,” the mayor said. “Many have already implemented proof of vaccination independently. Now we are setting clear standards that provide straightforward guidance for businesses and ease that burden.”
Nancy Caswell, owner of Oak and Rowan in Boston and executive director of Massachusetts Restaurants United, called the last 22 months the most challenging ever for restaurant owners.
“Today we stand with Mayor Wu moving into this next chapter,” she said. “If the public health experts and our mayor believe proof of vaccination is in the best interest of public health, we too stand behind that decision.”
“We are not well if we are not vaccinated,” added Heather White, founder and CEO of TRILLFIT fitness studio. “So we stand here proud to support Mayor Wu and her team’s leadership as we trust in the science, we believe in the experts and we move forward to do what it takes to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
Wu said over 90% of city employees are already vaccinated, but anyone who is not will have to do so by the Jan. 15 deadline as a condition of employment.
“This is meant to keep each and every one of our city workers safe,” she said.
Even before Monday’s announcement, union leaders told the Boston Herald that they were looking into their legal options. City employees, contractors and volunteers are currently required to provide either proof of vaccination or a weekly negative test result.
From outside Monday’s press conference at Boston City Hall, protesters could be heard chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!” and even singing lyrics from “The Star-Spangled Banner,” including the line, “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” At times the chanting made it difficult for those at the podium to hear themselves speak. Boos could be heard at one point during the announcement.
“Welcome to the people’s building,” Wu said at one point in response to the boos. “There is nothing more American than coming together to ensure that we are taking care of each other, that each and every one of our community members is safe and healthy and has access to the future and opportunities they deserve.”
Dr. Cassandra Pierre, of Boston Medical Center, talks about omicron variant concerns ahead of holiday gatherings.
Boston has been undergoing a major surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks. The city’s first cases of the highly contagious omicron variant were detected last week. All three people were unvaccinated young adults, and all had mild symptoms, the Boston Public Health Commission said.
There have been 94,363 cases confirmed and 1,492 deaths in Boston since the start of the pandemic as of Friday, the most recent day that metrics were available on the city’s dashboard.
The data shows that thresholds for several COVID metrics aren’t being met, including the number of positive tests per day, test positivity and hospitals’ COVID patient population. For example, on Tuesday, the city had 369 positive tests per day, compared to a threshold of 340.
Several other mayors joined Wu for Monday’s announcement, including Somerville’s Joe Curtatone and Salem’s Kim Driscoll. Those communities, along with Arlington, Brookline and Cambridge, are also implementing measures similar to the ones announced by Wu.