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Philadelphia Announces Food Establishment Vaccine Mandate

On December 13th, 2021, the Philadelphia Department of Health announced the implementation of a vaccine mandate for customers and workforce of all businesses that sell food or drink for on-site consumption within the City of Philadelphia.

Effective January 3rd, 2022, staff and patrons will have to provide evidence of proper COVID-19 vaccination status in order to enter an establishment. Specifically, from January 3rd, 2022, to January 17th, 2022, covered businesses may only admit customers who show either proof of completed COVID-19 vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 24 hours of entry. After January 17th, 2022, only proof of full vaccination status against COVID-19 will be sufficient for entry. Full vaccination is defined as either receiving two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. In order for staff of covered establishments to be in compliance, employees must have received their initial dose of the vaccine by January 3, 2022, and a second dose, if receiving a two-dose vaccine series, no later than February 3, 2022. At the time of this post, information on what is considered acceptable proof of vaccination has not been provided.

The mandate will specifically not be applicable to children under five years and three months, individuals with signed medical exemptions from a licensed practitioner, or individuals with religious exemptions who have attested in writing that they have a sincerely held religious belief that prevents them from being vaccinated. Those with exemptions, except children under the age of two, will be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of entry into any establishment that seats 1,000 or more people.

According to the Philadelphia Department of Health, the mandate is applicable to the following places that serve and allow for on-site food/drink consumption:

  • Indoor restaurant spaces
  • Cafes within larger spaces (e.g., museum cafes)
  • Bars
  • Sports venues that serve food or drink for onsite consumption
  • Movie theaters
  • Other entertainment venues that serve food or drink for onsite consumption
  • Conventions (if food is being served)
  • Catering halls
  • Casinos (if food and drink are allowed on casino floor)
  • Food court seating areas, which should be cordoned off and have someone checking vaccine status on entry to seating area

However, the mandate does not apply to the following:

  • K-12 and early childcare settings
  • Hospitals
  • Congregate care facilities
  • Special population providers that serve food, residential or healthcare facilities
  • Grocery stores
  • Convenience stores
  • Other establishments that primarily sell food and drink for offsite use
  • Philadelphia International Airport, except in traditional seated restaurant or seated bar style locations
  • Soup kitchens or sites serving vulnerable populations
  • Individuals entering a covered establishment for less than 15 minutes (e.g., picking up food or using the restroom)

Next Steps for Employers

At this time, the Philadelphia Department of Health has only issued a press release about this new mandate. It is anticipated that additional guidance to assist covered establishments with complying with the mandate will be provided in the coming days. In order to prepare to comply with the upcoming mandate, covered establishments should review their vaccination policies and ensure that all staff members have provided proper proof of vaccination status, subject to applicable exceptions to the mandate.

HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.