Watch CBS News

Philadelphia Will No Longer Require Restaurants To Check COVID-19 Vaccine Status To Dine Indoors

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- With COVID-19 cases dropping in Philadelphia, the city announced Wednesday it's easing restrictions, including lifting the vaccine mandate to eat inside restaurants. The only remaining COVID mandate in Philadelphia is for masks to be worn inside. 

Officials say the end is near. The end of all COVID restrictions in Philadelphia could happen in weeks.

City health officials said a tiered system will be used to spell out potential future COVID-19 mandates in case of new variants that could cause cases to climb.

The system would also be used if cases significantly drop. The city moved out of the extreme caution phase on Wednesday, which ended the proof of vaccination requirement to eat inside restaurants.

"Philadelphia's vaccine mandate has been hard on our restaurants and on our places of entertainment. But the work those establishments have done has helped to decrease transmission and to increase vaccination rates in the city," Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said. 

Below, are the tiers provided by the city:

Level 4: Extreme Caution 

  • Proof of vaccination required for places that serve food or drink.
  • Masks required in indoor public places.

Level 3: Caution 

  • Proof of vaccination or negative test within 24 hours (acceptable tests include lab or onsite testing, not home tests) for places that serve food or drink.
  • Masks required in indoor public places.

Level 2: Mask Precautions 

  • No vaccine requirement for places that serve food or drink.
  • Masks required in indoor public places.

Level 1: All Clear 

  • No vaccine requirement for places that serve food or drink.
  • No mask requirement (except in schools, healthcare institutions, congregate settings, and on public transportation.

Philadelphia is now averaging 189 new COVID cases a day. That's 90% down from the peak about a month ago. 

Bettigole says there has also been a substantial increase in the number of Philadelphians who have gotten vaccinated, which has helped get us to this point.

"When the vaccine mandate was announced we were in the midst of the omicron wave and only 27.5% of Philadelphia's children age 5 to 11 had had a first dose of COVID vaccine, slightly ahead of the national level," Bettigole said. "Today, cases are dropping rapidly and 53.1% of the city's 5-11-year-olds have had their first dose of vaccine compared to 31.8% nationally, a huge jump forward."

Philadelphia is also starting a new six-week incentive program to get more people vaccinated. Residents who are fully vaccinated in a participating health department clinic will qualify to receive a $100 gift card. 

Some businesses say that the vaccine mandate hurt their bottom lines.

"We turned away several hundred dollars in business," The Goat's Beard owner Brendan McGrew said.

Philadelphia's strict COVID-19 rules, like its proof of vaccination requirement to eat inside restaurants, hurt already-struggling businesses, like The Goat's Beard in Manayunk.

"Last night for Valentine's Day, we had six groups of people that we turned away because they came in and couldn't show us a vax card," McGrew said.

Conference venues also saw challenges because of the city's fluctuating COVID-19 rules, says Ben Fileccia, with the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association.

"With the mandates going in and out, the uncertainty of planning events, conferences coming into town have been canceling because we just don't know if they'll be able to host them here," Fileccia said.

The system is also a win for hotels and conference venues, according to Fileccia.

"They're going have some type of certainty moving forward," Fileccia said.

"We have to get back to normal," he added.

Workers at Winnie's in Manayunk say the past 20 months of constantly fluctuating COVID-19 restrictions have been challenging. The tiered system could be a step to make planning easier in case of major spikes or decreases in COVID-19 cases.

"We go through the struggles. Everybody's learning how to adapt to the changes that we have," Winnie's Manayunk culinary operations manager Matt Belz said.

CBS3'S Stephanie Stahl, Wakisha Bailey, and Matt Petrillo contributed to this report. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.