FAQ: DC to Require Proof of COVID-19 Vaccine at Many Businesses Starting Saturday

Starting Saturday at 6 a.m., anyone who wants to visit establishments including restaurants, gyms, music venues and theaters in Washington, D.C., must show proof of vaccination against COVID-19.

D.C.’s COVID-19 vaccine entry requirement, known as VaxDC, applies to almost everyone aged 12, but there are medical or religious exemptions.

A valid photo ID and proof of vaccination will be needed to enter many indoor gathering places. A mask mandate is also in effect.

Here’s what to know about the vaccine entry requirement.

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Where is proof of vaccine required in Washington, D.C.?

Vaccinations are required in many places where people gather indoors, including:

  • Indoor food and drink establishments, including restaurants, nightclubs, taverns, food halls, food courts, breweries, wineries, distillery tasting rooms, dining halls and cafes within other establishments.
  • Indoor cultural and entertainment businesses, including concert venues, sports venues, movie theaters, pool and billiard halls, bowling alleys, cigar bars, hookah bars and adult entertainment venues.
  • Indoor exercise and recreational facilities, including gyms and fitness studios.
  • Indoor event and meeting places, including hotel meeting rooms, banquet halls, conference center meeting facilities, event halls, convention centers, auditoriums and shared work facilities that are hosting events.

Capital One Arena is among large venues instituting the requirement.

Private parties at the establishments listed above must comply, D.C. says.

The D.C. Department of Health can designate other establishments as needed.

What are the D.C. proof of vaccination requirements?

Patrons must show (1) a valid I.D. and (2) proof of vaccination to enter establishments under the VaxDC mandate.

The proof of vaccination must show you’ve received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. After Feb. 15, you must be fully vaccinated.

D.C.’s mandate doesn’t require you to show proof of vaccination if you’re entering an establishment briefly, such as to pick up a to-go order or use the bathroom.

What’s a valid proof of vaccination and acceptable ID in D.C.?

D.C. says these are valid ways to prove vaccination:

  • A CDC issued vaccination card (original, photocopy, a digital copy or photo on a mobile device)
  • Record of immunization from a healthcare provider or public health authority
  • A COVID-19 verification app (read more on the app option)
  • World Health Organization Vaccination Record

Acceptable photo IDs include:

  • State-issued driver’s license or limited purpose driver’s license
  • Any other state-issued identification card
  • Passport
  • DC One Card
  • Student ID
  • Permanent resident card

Who does the vaccine entry requirement apply to?

Everyone age 12 and older trying to enter certain indoor establishments, unless they have a medical or religious exemption and a negative COVID-19 test.

Employees of establishments covered by the VaxDC program are not required to show proof of vaccination to go to work.

Regulatory workers, maintenance workers or delivery persons don’t need to show proof of vaccine to enter an establishment.

What businesses in D.C. don’t have the vaccine entry requirement?

Here’s D.C.’s list of exempt establishments:

  • Grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and establishments that provide charitable food services
  • Houses of worship
  • Hotels, except meeting rooms, ballrooms and hotel restaurants and bars
  • Homeless shelters and other human services facilities
  • Health care facilities and pharmacies
  • Private meeting spaces in office buildings or residential buildings
  • Gyms and fitness facilities available only to residents of residential buildings or workers in officers
  • Law enforcement buildings and government offices such as the Department of Motor Vehicles

The requirement doesn’t extend to outdoor facilities such as parks or outside beer gardens.

Museums and libraries are not included in the vaccine entry requirement, but certain events at such venues would be subject to the mandate.

Residential buildings, such as apartments, condos or dorms, are also not included, nor are school or college campuses. However, many D.C. universities have required vaccinations within their communities.

Are there exceptions to D.C.’s vaccine entry requirement?

The entry requirement applies to people 12 and older. Kids who recently turned 12 are not exempt, because the vaccine is available to anyone 5 and older, D.C. says.

D.C.’s mandate doesn’t require you to show proof of vaccination if you’re entering an establishment briefly, such as to pick up a carryout order or use the bathroom.

There are exemptions for people who can’t get a COVID-19 vaccine due to medical reasons or sincerely held religious beliefs.

D.C. says people in either of those groups must provide documentation of their medical condition or religious belief, along with a negative COVID-19 test taken within 24 hours.

What if I forget a valid proof of vaccination or proper ID, or am unvaccinated without a covered exemption?

Businesses can serve patrons without proof of vaccination in outdoor areas only. Patrons who wear a mask can briefly enter the business to access the outdoor area, pay at the register, pick up carryout or use the restroom.

Patrons without proof of vaccination cannot get served inside or participate in indoor activities.

Can I show a negative COVID-19 test instead?

No, a negative COVID-19 test is not an alternative to proof of vaccination for most people.

A negative virus test is required for anyone with a medical or religious exemption.

What are businesses covered by the mandate supposed to do?

Businesses subject to the entry requirements are expected to display signs informing people of the mandate.

They are also directed to check IDs to verify a vaccine card at the entry point to the business.

Businesses don’t need to keep any records of your vaccine status, D.C. says.

How will the requirement be enforced?

Several agencies including D.C. Health and the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration will send staff to check on businesses.

Penalties for not making “good faith efforts” to comply could result in fines up to $1,000 or loss of business license.