Philadelphia mandates COVID-19 vaccine for healthcare workers, college students

Philadelphia health officials on Friday announced that college students and healthcare workers will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-October or face weekly testing.

Acting Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said healthcare workers and college students without a medical or religious exemption must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 15. Healthcare workers who do not get vaccinated will be required to have a PCR or antigen test twice a week. 

Bettigole outline three options universities can offer students who do not provide proof of vaccination by the October deadline. Unvaccinated students can participate in in-person learning with a weekly negative PCR test once a week or twice weekly antigen tests.

Bettigole said colleges and universities with a 90% vaccination rate can offer unvaccinated students the option to double mask and maintain social distance while indoors. A virtual learning option remains available for unvaccinated students with exemptions.

"These regulations are aimed at protecting the most vulnerable through the vaccination of healthcare workers, and they're aimed at preventing the further spread of COVID-19 through the vaccination of college and university students," Bettigole said. 


The acting health commissioner pointed out that young adults are the population with the lowest vaccination rate and the highest rate of COVID-19 infection. With cases steadily climbing in Philadelphia, Bettigole said now is the time to act to prevent a devastating wave of infections that could overwhelm hospitals

"I have no doubt that there will be some pieces of this that we'll need to tweak or change in the coming weeks, but by making this announcement now we're giving time to the city's healthcare workers and college students to do what they need to do and get vaccinated," Bettigole said.

Philadelphia's announcement closely mirrors the measures for healthcare and state workers in Delaware. Gov. John Carney said people who work in these settings need to show proof of vaccination by the end of September or undergo weekly testing.

Despite a high vaccination rate, Philadelphia has grappled with a surge of COVID-19 infections propelled by the more infectious Delta variant. In response to the uptick, officials tightened the city's indoor mask mandate for businesses that do not require proof of vaccination to enter and issued an outdoor mask mandate on certain venues.

Bettigole said the Board of Health amended the new mask mandate to accommodate parents of children who are currently ineligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. This includes a new category of "essential businesses" such as grocery stores, pharmacies and healthcare facilities that will require visitors to mask up. 

"These new mandates, together with the mask mandate announced earlier this week add additional layers of protection for Philadelphia-area residents. We will need that protection as COVID continues to sweep across the country."



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