Boston Enacts Vaccine Mandate to Enter Certain Businesses

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Seyfarth Synopsis. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has announced that beginning January 15, 2022, many Boston businesses will be required to check vaccination cards before allowing most individuals to enter their premises.

On December 20, 2021, Boston’s newly elected Mayor, Michelle Wu, announced that beginning January 15, 2022, covered businesses may not permit most individuals to enter their premises without showing proof of vaccination against COVID-19.  Proof of vaccination may be established by presenting: (i) a CDC vaccination card or a physical or digital image of the card; (ii) any other official immunization record; (iii) a letter, digital image, or report from a health care provider, pharmacy, or vaccination site establishing proof of COVID-19 vaccination; or (iv) any vaccination verification smartphone application developed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or the City of Boston.

Covered Entities. The Order applies to businesses and entities that operate certain “covered premises,” including the following:

  • Indoor Food Services, including restaurants and bars, and all indoor dining areas of food service establishments;
  • Indoor Entertainment, Recreational, and Event Venues, including theaters, music venues, commercial event and party venues, museums and galleries, professional sports arenas, and convention centers, among others; and
  • Indoor Gyms and Fitness Settings, including commercial gyms and other facilities used for conducting group fitness classes.

Exemptions. Certain individuals are exempted from the Mayor’s Order, and may enter a covered premises without showing proof of vaccination, provided that such individuals wear a face mask at all times.  These include individuals entering for a quick and limited purpose, such as using the restroom, making a delivery, performing repairs, or placing or picking up an order or service.  The Order also contains exemptions for performing artists and athletes or sports teams, and their employees.

The Order generally exempts residential and office building settings, the use of which is limited to residents, owners, or tenants of the building; colleges and universities with a vaccination requirement; and any other location that is otherwise not open to the general public.  The Order also does not apply to pre-Kindergarten through grade 12 public and non-public schools and programs, child care programs, senior centers, or community centers. 

Signage.  Each covered business must post a sign at their entrance indicating that employees and patrons are required to be vaccinated.  An approved sign will be available at www.boston.gov or available for pick up at city locations.

Schedule.  Phase I of the Order goes into effect on January 15, 2022, at which point all individuals age 12 and over must be required to present proof of at least one dose of vaccination. Phase II begins on February 15, 2022, at which point all individuals age 12 and over must be required to present proof of full vaccination.  On March 1, 2022, Phase III begins, at which point children age 5-11 will be required to present proof of at least one dose of vaccination. Phase IV begins on May 1, 2022, at which point children age 5-11 will be required to present proof of full vaccination to enter covered businesses.

Violations and Enforcement.  Each instance that a covered business fails to check an individual’s vaccination status is a separate violation of the Order.  The Order instructs the Boston Public Health Commissioner to develop guidance to help businesses comply with the Order.  According to the Order, the new mandate will be enforced through any and all mechanisms authorized by law, including fines of $300 for each violation and orders of the Boston Public Health Commission to cease and desist.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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