New York Is the First Big City to Require Vaccinations--but Likely Not the Last
With fresh memories of how Covid-19 tore through New York City last year, its mayor is now telling residents: Get the jab or don't come inside.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city--the first in the nation--will soon require proof of Covid vaccination from anyone who wants to dine indoors, see a Broadway show, go to a museum, or work out in a gym. The new order, which pertains to a host of indoor venues, will go into effect August 16 and will be fully enforced beginning September 13. NYC will begin conducting inspections in mid-September to assure businesses are complying, according to the mayor.
"If you want to participate in our society in full, you've got to get vaccinated," de Blasio said at a press conference on Tuesday. "It's time."
De Blasio hopes the unusual requirement--which covers private businesses of all stripes--will juice the city's vaccination rate. About 55 percent of all New Yorkers have been fully vaccinated as of August 4. Among adults, the figure is 72 percent.
In other cities, businesses are leading the mandate charge. In Philadelphia and San Francisco, bars and restaurants have joined together to require proof of vaccination from indoor patrons. Separately, in NYC last week, famed restaurateur Danny Meyer announced a vaccine mandate for all employees and indoor guests at his Manhattan restaurants Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern. "If you really want to go unvaccinated, you can dine somewhere else, and you can go work somewhere else," the restaurateur told CNN's Poppy Harlow on Thursday, adding that he would call this more of a company policy than a mandate.
NYC's new vaccine mandate, dubbed Key to NYC Pass, will require workers and customers to show proof of at least one vaccination before entering dining and entertainment venues across the city. Patrons will need to show either their vaccine card or proof of vaccination through New York's Excelsior Pass app, the state's digital vaccine wallet.
With the new Delta Variant driving the spike in cases across the country--New York reported 1,301 new cases on Wednesday--these new orders are not unexpected. And other U.S. cities are likely to roll out similar mandates. But restaurateurs in particular are concerned that having the responsibility of verifying the vaccination status of customers could result in the same backlash they got last year in trying to enforce mask mandates. In New York, the New York City Hospitality Alliance was particularly concerned about neighborhoods with low vaccination rates.
"It's challenging for many businesses to implement an employee and customer vaccine requirement on a voluntary basis," the alliance said in a statement on Tuesday. The hospitality group added, however, that a government mandate would alleviate the pressure on businesses to explain their voluntary policies to employees and customers.
The trade group also recognized the bigger picture, that "it may ultimately prove an essential move to protect public health and ensure that New York does not implement new occupancy restrictions and shutdown orders that will again devastate small businesses and workers who have not yet recovered from the pandemic."
De Blasio has increasingly pushed vaccinations to avoid a third wave of cases in the city. On July 28, he announced a plan to offer $100 to people who get the vaccine from city-run vaccination sites. And last week, he mandated that city employees and health care workers are required to show proof of vaccination starting August 2, or face weekly testing.