D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Wednesday that certain establishments, including restaurants, bars, nightclubs, gyms, events and meeting spaces, will require proof of COVID-19 vaccination beginning in January.
Patrons above the age of 12 will be required to be partially vaccinated by Jan. 15 and fully vaccinated by Feb. 15.
"If you are a resident that is not yet vaccinated and you want to continue enjoying these activities, now is the time to get vaccinated," Bowser said.
Citing new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting omicron as now the dominant strain in the U.S., D.C. Department of Health official Patrick Ashley said it was only "a matter of time" before that played out in the district, which currently has 25 confirmed cases of the new variant.
Ashley also pointed to huge spikes in the weekly and daily case rate in D.C. from a month ago, attributing them, in part, to the winter surge and the omicron variant.
A month ago, D.C. reported a daily case rate of 13.7 cases per 100,000 people. As of Wednesday, the rate had jumped nine times to 123.8 cases per 100,000 people.
Bowser noted that some exceptions to the new mandate will be made for patrons not staying long at a restaurant, for example, a patron picking up an order.
The move follows in the footsteps of other major U.S. cities like New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles that have similar vaccine requirements.
Approved proof of vaccination includes vaccination cards or photos of vaccination cards, immunization records or verification apps like CLEAR and VaxYes.
Further guidelines on the requirements are still to come, Bowser said. Wednesday's initial announcement of the new guidelines was made to give businesses enough time to prepare.
Bowser also announced that to meet the increased testing demand among residents, the district will order another five million rapid antigen tests, for a total of six million.
Students in D.C. schools will also have to be immunized beginning March 1, following regulations from the D.C. Council.
Bowser also encouraged residents to celebrate safe holidays and asked people to have small gatherings, wear masks and gather outdoors.