Boston on Monday became the latest Democrat-run city in the United States to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination to participate in city life.
Mayor Michelle Wu (D) announced that the city will require proof of vaccination for indoor recreational activities including restaurants, gyms, theaters, sports venues, and many other businesses.
The requirements will take effect on Jan. 15. According to Boston's public health commission, there are 464,610 fully vaccinated city residents, about 68% of the population. Nearly one-third of all Bostonians will be unable to participate in public indoor activities after the requirements go into effect.
Additionally, city employees will be required to get vaccinated, she said at a press conference where protesters blew whistles, shouted "Shame on Wu," and sang "The Star-Spangled Banner," WHDH-TV reported.
“There is nothing more American than coming together to ensure that we’re taking care of each other,” Wu said to the protesters.
Under the previous vaccine mandate, city workers had the option of submitting to regular virus testing if they did not want to receive one of the vaccines. But now there will be no testing option. City employees may apply for a medical or religious exemption from the mandate.
Wu said that about 90% of the city's roughly 18,000 workers are already vaccinated.
“The vast majority of COVID-related hospitalizations are of unvaccinated individuals, which is impacting our entire health care system and compromising the health of our communities,” she said. “Today’s steps to protect community members in certain indoor establishments and throughout our city workforce will help ensure that everyone in Boston will be safe.”
The additional coronavirus restrictions come amid fears that the Omicron variant will make the winter surge of COVID-19 in several northeastern states worse.
Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, warned that new positive cases had increased nearly 90% compared to two weeks ago and said the city is now averaging 369 new cases per day. Hospitalizations have increased 60% in the last two weeks.
Though some private businesses have imposed their own mask and vaccine requirements, and there were small business owners appearing at the press conference in support of the mayor's announcement, the Massachusetts chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses called the new mandate an additional burden on struggling businesses.
“It is unfortunate that, once again, private businesses are being placed in the unenviable position of having to enforce another government health directive,” Christopher Carlozzi, the organization's director, said in a statement.