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Philadelphia Health Care Workers, College Students And Staff Will Need To Get COVID-19 Vaccines By Oct. 15

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The City of Philadelphia has issued a new vaccination requirement for health care workers and those in higher education. Health officials announced on Friday all Philadelphia health care workers and all staff, students and faculty at colleges and universities will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 15, unless they have a medical or religious exception.

Health care workers with an exception must have a PCR or antigen test twice a week.

"These regulations are aimed at protecting the most vulnerable through the vaccination of health care workers," Philadelphia Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said, "and they're aimed at preventing the further spread of COVID. We will do what we have to do to keep the city safe."

Colleges and universities will have to offer PCR testing once a week or antigen testing twice a week for those with exceptions. However, if the college or university has a vaccination rate of 90% or higher, those with exceptions will have to double-mask and maintain a six-foot distance. Or if feasible, colleges and universities can offer those with exceptions virtual options.

This comes days after the city issued a new mask mandate for businesses.

Officials say the reason for the new mandate is because cases are rising in the city.

Students Eyewitness News talked to said it's about time the city made the mandate. On Friday, the city's top doctor suggested COVID is again becoming an urgent threat.

"We have tried a wide range of incentives in Philadelphia. From Phillies and Eagles tickets to our vaccine sweepstakes. But at a certain point with cases soaring and hospitalizations on the rise, we have to act," Bettigole said. "Young adults are the population with the lowest vaccination rate and the highest rate of COVID infection rate."

Temple University's president said in a statement, "Public health experts have made it clear that widespread vaccination is our best defense in the fight to mitigate the virus. It is also the responsible action to protect the health and welfare of our communities."

"I think everyone should have a say in whether they want to get vaccinated," Sara McGinn, a Temple University student, said.

"I think everyone should be vaccinated, so it makes everything easier rather than everyone get sick," Julie Lannutti, another Temple student, said.

The city also announced a tweak to the indoor masking requirements announced earlier this week relating to children, creating some instances where kids would be allowed without violating the policy.

Certain essential businesses will simply have a mask mandate, rather than require vaccines. This way parents don't need to worry about not being able to go certain places with their kids who are unable to get vaccinated. It includes grocery stores, doctors officers, and pharmacies.

"That way parents won't have to worry that they'll be unable to stop by the grocery store with children," Bettigole said.

Bettigole also said because there is a public health emergency, the Board of Health is legally able to mandate vaccinations.

CBS3's Matt Petrillo and Stephanie Stahl contributed to this report. 

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