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B Together policy questions and answers

We have answers to frequently asked questions about the City of Boston’s vaccine requirement for certain indoor spaces.

 INDIVIDUALS

Is there any change to the indoor mask mandate?

No. Boston’s indoor mask mandate is still in effect. The public health guidance from the CDC and Boston Public Health Commission is that the best protection against COVID-19 is both to get vaccinated and to wear a mask until the spread of COVID-19 in the community is suppressed.

When I show my proof of vaccination, do I also need to show ID?

No. The City is only requiring that people show proof that they are vaccinated. The policy is designed to reduce barriers to showing vaccination status, making it possible for residents without official government ID to show proof of vaccination. Businesses may choose to impose their own requirements above and beyond the City’s policy, but the City will not enforce any additional requirements. 

What if I have misplaced my vaccination card? 

Businesses are required to ask for proof of vaccination. If you have a cell phone with a camera, you may want to take a photo of your vaccination card or upload it to a COVID vaccine verification app to ensure you have it accessible. Businesses may allow a patron to enter for a limited purpose, such as to pick up food or to recharge their cell phone to enable the patron to show a digital image of their proof of vaccination. Businesses may also exercise discretion to allow entrance to a vaccinated minor who cannot show proof of vaccination if the minor or an accompanying adult can offer a reasonable explanation. 

What if I don’t have a smartphone?

You can show that you are vaccinated without a smartphone by showing an original or copy of your CDC vaccination card or any other official immunization record.

Will the City app track what location I visit?

No. As the city rolls out a COVID-19 vaccine verification app, it will be designed for one purpose only: to make it easy for you to show an image of your proof of vaccination on your phone. The app will not track your location or share any data with other entities.

What if I speak a language other than English?

Public notices to be posted at the front entrance of indoor establishments will be distributed in the languages most commonly spoken in each neighborhood. Businesses must accept valid proof of vaccination from countries outside the United States.

Can I report a business that is not following the policy?

If you see a business that is not following the policy that you believe should be, please call 311. If you are a worker concerned about retaliation from your employer, please contact the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division.

Do I need a booster shot under the policy?

There is currently no requirement in the policy to have a booster to enter indoor establishments. The Public Health Commission may modify this provision in the future, in consultation with public health data and guidance from the CDC.


CHILDREN

Does this policy apply to children?

Starting on January 15th, 2022, the policy applies to people age 12+. Starting March 1st, 2022, the policy also applies to children ages 5-11. The policy does not currently apply to children under 5 years old. 

How should businesses verify that an individual is under 5 and exempt from the policy?

Businesses are not required to ask for identification alongside proof of vaccination. If a customer states that their child is under 5, businesses should use their best discretion to accommodate that child. 

Does this policy apply to schools or school programs?

No, the policy excludes public and non-public schools (pre-kindergarten through grade 12), school trips, school programs, child care programs, and community centers. Students participating in school trips to covered establishments, such as museums, or school-sponsored athletic events are not required to show their vaccination status. 

Does this policy apply to colleges and universities?

The policy excludes indoor dining, fitness, and entertainment spaces within higher education institutions that already require vaccination for all members of the community.


BUSINESSES

What if an individual refuses to show proof of vaccination at a covered establishment?

An individual who refuses to show proof of vaccination may not enter except for very quick and limited purposes (such as using the bathroom, picking up food, or paying a bill). When entering a venue for such limited purposes, the individuals must wear a face mask. If an individual cannot show proof of vaccination, businesses may engage in a cooperative dialogue to find a reasonable accommodation, such as providing takeout rather than dine-in service or joining a virtual rather than in-person exercise class. We have more guidance on equitable implementation of the policy

Can customers show recent negative COVID-19 test results as an alternative to vaccination?

No, the policy generally does not allow testing as a substitute for showing vaccination status.

If someone is entering a business for a brief, limited purpose is the business required to check proof of vaccination?

No, those who enter a covered facility solely for a quick and limited purpose, such as using the bathroom, picking up food, or paying a bill, are not required to show vaccination status. 

Do businesses need to check proof of vaccination from suppliers or vendors?

Those entering a facility solely for a quick and limited purpose, such as making a delivery to a restaurant, are not required to show vaccination status. These individuals must wear a face mask. For contractors and vendors entering the business for anything other than a quick and limited purpose, businesses must check vaccination status upon entry. 

Will there be enforcement against businesses who don’t follow the policy?

The City’s goal is to help businesses follow the policy so that we can encourage vaccination and limit the risk to customers and workers. Once the COVID-19 vaccine requirement takes effect on January 15, inspectors will make checks for compliance. Businesses who are found not in compliance will receive a warning. If businesses continue not to comply, they may be fined or face other enforcement action. The City’s focus will be ensuring that covered entities understand the policy and have every opportunity to comply. 

Can businesses maintain notes to confirm vaccination status of regular customers or guests, rather than asking for vaccination status upon entry? 

Membership-only businesses, such as gyms, may maintain a list of customers with certification that each customer has shown their vaccination status. Businesses must provide members the option of verifying their vaccination status each time they enter the business without vaccination status being entered into a database. These businesses must be able to demonstrate to inspectors how they are verifying members’ vaccination status.

What if a customer states that they cannot be vaccinated for medical, disability or other civil rights-related reasons? 

Covered businesses must require proof of vaccination. If a customer requests an exemption from the vaccine requirement due to a disability, medical condition, or another civil rights-related reason, businesses should not ask for documentation to support this request. Instead, businesses should engage in a cooperative dialogue to find an alternative means of service, such as providing takeout rather than dine-in service. A business does not have to provide such an accommodation if doing so would create a direct threat for other customers or employees of the business, including through risk of COVID-19 infection, or impose an undue hardship on the business. We have more guidance on equitable implementation of the policy. 

How does this policy apply to multi-purpose facilities, such as libraries or community centers? 

Within multi-purpose facilities, certain portions of the establishment may be covered by the policy (indoor dining, fitness, or entertainment activities). Facilities may display signage at the entrance of these covered portions of the multi-purpose facility – for example, at the entrance to a hotel gym, rather than the entrance to the hotel itself. Vaccination proof may be checked at the entrance to the facility, or at the entrance to the covered portion, according to the discretion of the facility.  

Does this policy apply to hotels?

Hotel guests using facilities covered by this policy (e.g. indoor dining, including restaurants, bars, and nightclubs; indoor fitness, including gyms and pools; and indoor entertainment, including function rooms) are required to show proof of vaccination, and hotel employees working in these facilities must be vaccinated. Hotel employees who do not regularly work in facilities covered by the policy, such as front desk staff, housekeeping staff, or garage staff, are not required to show vaccination status. Areas that are for employees only and are not open to the public, such as employee cafeterias, are not covered by the order. The order does not cover in-room dining services that are not open to the public.

Are private events in hotels or venues covered under the policy? 

Yes, all events in covered premises are covered by the policy. For events held in hotels or other venues, it is ultimately the responsibility of the license holder, the hotel or venue, to comply with the policy. That being said, hotels or other venues may choose to delegate verification of vaccination status to the event planners or hosts. It is the responsibility of the license holder, the hotel or venue, to demonstrate compliance with the order in the event of an inspection or report of violation.

Are restaurant customers required to provide proof of vaccination for outdoor dining?

No, this policy applies only to indoor portions of food service establishments.

Are restaurants that only offer take-out and delivery exempt from the vaccine mandate?

Yes, the policy does not apply to any food service establishment offering food or drink exclusively for off-premises or outdoor consumption.

Are quick-service restaurants that offer both take-out and dine-in services required to check proof of vaccination from all customers at the door?

No. Customers entering a covered establishment for a quick and limited purpose, such as picking up take-out food, are not required to show their vaccination status. 

Quick-service restaurants may ask for proof of vaccination at the point of service, after a customer indicates that they are planning to dine in, rather than at the front door.


EMPLOYEES

Do employees of covered establishments need to be vaccinated?

Yes. This policy covers both patrons and people working in the same indoor spaces. 

If an employee of a covered business is not vaccinated, is the City requiring that the employee be terminated or put on leave until they are vaccinated?

The goal of this policy is to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and encourage people to get vaccinated. It is the responsibility of covered businesses to ensure that employees who will be working in spaces covered by the policy are vaccinated. The City and the Boston Public Health Commission are continuing to support walk-in vaccination clinics across neighborhoods. A list of all vaccination clinics in Boston is regularly updated online. Guidance for responding to requests for reasonable accommodations for medical, disability or other civil rights-related reasons is available online. Determinations about eligibility for unemployment benefits are generally made by the Department of Unemployment Assistance. Eligibility inquiries should be directed to the administering agency.

Are businesses required to share employee vaccination records with the City? 

No, the City will not ask employers to share employee vaccination records. To verify employees’ vaccination status, employers may maintain a list of employees and verification that each employee has shown their vaccination status. Employees are not required to show their vaccination status each time they enter the covered business. Any vaccination information employers do maintain should be collected and stored in a secure manner to ensure the privacy and security of the information is protected. Such information should only be accessed by employees or other individuals who have a legitimate need to access such information. Vaccination information should not be used for any other purpose.

What if an employee states that they cannot be vaccinated for medical, religious, or other reasons? 

Covered businesses must require proof of vaccination from their employees. If an employee requests an exception to the vaccine requirement or additional time to provide their proof of vaccination, businesses should engage with them in a cooperative dialogue, or good faith discussion, to see if a reasonable accommodation is possible. Reasonable accommodation may take many forms, such as allowing an employee to work remotely, perform their job duties outside or isolated from other employees or customers, or take a leave of absence. If an employee is seeking a reasonable accommodation because of a disability or other medical condition, you can request a note from their medical provider supporting their inability to show proof of vaccination. If an employee is seeking a reasonable accommodation because of their religious beliefs or other civil rights-related reason, you can request supporting documentation only if you have an objective basis to question the sincerity of the stated basis for the employee’s inability to show proof of vaccination. We have more guidance on equitable implementation of the policy.

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