Philadelphia said it will require proof of vaccination at eateries, and Minnesota hospitals ran full-page ads saying they are “heartbroken” and “overwhelmed” as a winter coronavirus spike takes hold and sparks new restrictions that fall short of lockdown.
City officials in Philadelphia said the vaccine rule will take effect on Jan. 3 and apply to any place that sells food or drink for consumption on-site, including movie theaters.
New Yorkers were told to mask up, starting Monday, in places that do not require vaccination for entry as Gov. Kathy Hochul warned of rising infections and hospitalizations.
Hospital leaders in Minnesota, which has some of the highest rates of COVID-19 per population in the country, ran newspaper ads across the state pleading with residents to get vaccinated and receive booster shots. They said health workers are so inundated with COVID-19 patients that they can no longer guarantee rapid treatment for other problems.
“At any time, you or your loved one might need our support,” the ad says. “Heart attacks. Car accidents. Cancer. Stroke. Appendicitis. Now, an ominous question looms: Will you be able to get care at your local community hospital without delay? Today, that’s uncertain.”
“How can we as a society stand by and watch people die when a simple shot could prevent a life-threatening illness?” it continued. “Your access to health care is being seriously threatened by COVID-19. We need to stop the spread!”
U.S. daily case counts are averaging 120,000, up 43% from two weeks ago, and hospitalizations are up to 65,000, a 23% rise.
The fast-moving delta variant remains dominant, but leaders are bracing for the omicron variant that sent caseloads skyrocketing in South Africa and has been detected in many countries and half of U.S. states, raising the stakes around the virus fight.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, speaking at a vaccination clinic in west London, said there have been a number of hospitalizations involving omicron, including the first confirmed death from the variant.
“The idea that this is somehow a milder version of the virus, I think that’s something we need to set on one side and just recognize the sheer pace at which it accelerates through the population. So the best thing we can do is all get our boosters,” Mr. Johnson said. “The risk is plainly there, we can see omicron spiking now in London and some other parts of the country. Here in the capital it probably represents about 40% of the cases. By tomorrow it’ll be the majority of the cases and it’s increasing the whole time.”
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa tested positive for the coronavirus but is in “good spirits” and will delegate his duties for the rest of the week as the country battles omicron. Mr. Ramaphosa sought a test after he started to feel ill after a state memorial service for former Deputy President F.W. de Klerk in Cape Town earlier in the day.
It is unclear how and when the president was infected, or if it is the omicron variant. But Mr. Ramaphosa, who is vaccinated, will self-isolate while Deputy President David Mabuza takes over this week.
“As I recover, my message of the week is: don’t let your guard down. Do everything you can and need to, to stay safe, beginning with vaccination,” Mr. Ramaphosa tweeted. “Let’s all protect ourselves. Vaccination is free, easy and it works.”
Some places in the U.S. are resorting to mandates instead of pleas.
In Philadelphia, venues that offer food and drink can accept proof of a recent negative test through Jan. 17, but proof of vaccination will be required for entry after that date, according to NBC Philadelphia.
The city joins communities such as San Francisco and New York City in mandating the shots to enjoy social activities.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he will detail on Wednesday how the city plans to implement and enforce a mandate that requires private-sector workers to be vaccinated and forces children ages 5 to 12 to show proof of at least one dose of a vaccine to enter social venues or participate in extracurricular activities.
Mr. de Blasio said 90% of adults in the city had received at least one dose of a vaccine, but he will forge ahead with the sweeping rule that takes full effect on Dec. 27.
“We’re going to keep pushing now to get everyone their second dose, their boosters, to get that 90% to go even up higher, to reach our youngest New Yorkers,” Mr. de Blasio said. “And the mandates are going to help us pull all these pieces together and do something transcendent.”
The mayor, who will cede way to Mayor-elect Eric Adams on Jan. 1, has resisted new mask rules. But Ms. Hochul on Friday said people must cover their faces within indoor public settings that do not require vaccination for entry, except when eating or drinking.
“The strategy of this city has been first and foremost vaccination, that will continue to be the case,” Mr. de Blasio said. “We believe the central strategic thing we have to do is vaccination. But we’re going to work with the state to implement this mask mandate.”