Workers and customers at restaurants, gyms and many other indoor businesses in Boston will be required to show proof of coronavirus vaccination starting in mid-January in an effort to curb a rise in new cases across the city and state, Mayor Michelle Wu said Monday.
In addition, city employees will be required to get vaccinated, she said at a City Hall news conference as protesters blowing whistles, shouting “Shame on Wu,” and singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” could clearly be heard in another part of the building.
“There is nothing more American than coming together to ensure that we’re taking care of each other,” the mayor said in response to the protesters.
City workers had previously been required to show proof of vaccination or submit to regular testing, but the testing option is being eliminated, she said. Medical and religious exemptions will be considered.
About 90 percent of the city’s roughly 18,000 workers are already vaccinated, she said.
“The vast majority of COVID-related hospitalizations are of unvaccinated individuals, which is impacting our entire health care system and compromising the health of our communities,” she said. “Today’s steps to protect community members in certain indoor establishments and throughout our city workforce will help ensure that everyone in Boston will be safe.”
The indoor mask mandate that takes effect Jan. 15 applies to restaurants, gyms, and indoor recreational facilities including theaters and sports venues, as well as some other businesses, she said.
Many businesses already have proof-of-vaccination requirements, Wu pointed out.
The announcement was made in conjunction with several surrounding communities, including Brookline, Cambridge and Somerville.
Boston has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases this month and things are expected to get worse next month with the spread of the omicron variant, said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission.
New positive cases have increased nearly 90 percent compared to two weeks ago, and the city is now averaging 369 new cases per day, she said. Hospitalizations are up 60 percent from two weeks ago.
While some small business owners attended the news conference in support of the indoor mask mandate, the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business called it an additional burden on already struggling businesses.
“It is unfortunate that, once again, private businesses are being placed in the unenviable position of having to enforce another government health directive,” Christopher Carlozzi, the organization’s state director, said in a statement.
Mark Pratt, The Associated Press