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Washington, D.C. to require proof of vaccination for restaurants, gyms and other indoor settings as COVID-19 cases skyrocket

CDC warns of spiking COVID-19 case numbers
CDC warns of spiking COVID-19 case numbers as Omicron spreads 12:07

People in the District of Columbia will soon be required to show proof of vaccination before entering many indoor establishments as COVID-19 cases in the city skyrocket. The recent surge comes as the Omicron variant spreads across U.S. and around the world, prompting new safety precautions and worldwide concern. 

"I don't make any of these types of decisions lightly," Mayor Muriel Bowser said Wednesday at a briefing.

Beginning January 15, those aged 12 and older will be required to show proof of at least one dose of an approved vaccine to enter establishments including restaurants, nightclubs, coffee shops, concert venues, movie theaters and gyms. Churches and museums are not included the mandate so far, according to CBS affiliate WUSA 9

People will not have the option of testing out of the mandate, Bowser said. As of February 15, those 12 and older will be required to show proof of full vaccination in order to enter those same places. 

Businesses will also be required to inform patrons before entering their establishment that proof of vaccination is required by January 15. People can provide proof of vaccination by displaying their CDC-issued vaccination card, a digital photo of it or a COVID-19 vaccine verification app. 

Bowser also said the Washington, D.C. city council has also approved a vaccine requirement for eligible public school students beginning March 1, and that she and the city will do "everything in our power to keep schools open."

The announcement comes days after Bowser reimposed a mask mandate in D.C. as local infections rise.

The district has seen a "tremendous jump" in COVID-19 cases, with 1,200 positive cases reported each day over the last several days and a case rate nine times higher than what was reported last month, according to Patrick Ashley, senior deputy director of the D.C. Department of Health. He said there have been 25 confirmed Omicron cases in the city as the fast-spreading variant now accounts for a majority of the nation's new cases. 

"We're being hit hard," Bowser said. "There is a lot of COVID in the community. We have had a lot of testing but we also have a lot of transmission."

But despite the recent uptick in cases, hospitalizations and deaths due to virus complications in D.C. have generally stayed around the same rate so far, Ashley said. 

"Even with everything that we do, we can see more cases," Bowser said. "But the fact that we can report the level of case rise that we've experienced and have fewer people in the hospital that we had last month is remarkable. It's a testament to how effective the vaccine is and maybe how this variant has evolved to be." 

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