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Washington, D.C. Becomes First Major City to Impose Vaccine Mandate on Students

A student receives a dose of a coronavirus vaccine on the campus of the University of Memphis in Memphis, Tenn., July 22, 2021. (Karen Pulfer Focht/Reuters)

Washington, D.C. has imposed a vaccine requirement for indoor activities that will also apply to all K-12 students, including those who attend charter, private and parochial schools.

Effective January 15, the order requires that patrons aged twelve and over present proof of at least one dose to enter certain businesses including restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, indoor exercise and recreational establishments, indoor cultural and entertainment facilities, and indoor event and meeting establishments. By February 15, people aged twelve and up must be fully vaccinated to enter these businesses.

Washington, D.C. is the third major city this week, after Boston and Chicago, to institute a customer vaccine mandate. “Businesses must display a notice informing patrons that proof of vaccination is required to enter any indoor portion of a covered location,” the order states.

Nested in the directive is also a sweeping vaccine requirement for students, who must receive both shots, if they’re eligible, in order to attend school starting March 1, 2022. This applies to DCPS, charter, and independent, private, and parochial school students. The order claims the authority for this rule comes from the Coronavirus Immunization of School Students and Early Childhood Workers Regulation Emergency Amendment Act of 2021, which the D.C. Council passed earlier in December.

D.C. is the first city to require vaccination for students, ahead of even New York City which has been known to be more aggressive with its Covid-19 restrictions. Mayor Bill de Blasio enacted the city’s indoor business vaccine mandate over the summer, the first in the nation at the time.

Amid the Covid-19 test shortage, exacerbated by the public “rush to the counter” panic ahead of the holidays, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser added that “DC Health has ordered an additional 5 million rapid antigen tests, for a total of 6 million ordered” to help the city prepare for its own Omicron spike. She noted during a press briefing Wednesday that the city only has 25 confirmed Omicron cases. A health official at the conference explained that there is a lag between D.C. and Northeastern cities, which are experiencing Covid-19 surges currently.

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