Fri | Jan 21, 2022

NYC to impose vaccine mandate on private-sector employers

Published:Tuesday | December 7, 2021 | 12:09 AM


From big Wall Street banks to corner grocery stores, all private employers in New York City will have to require their workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the mayor announced on Monday in the most sweeping vaccine mandate of any state or big city in the US.

The move by Mayor Bill de Blasio comes as cases are climbing again in the US, and the worrisome but little-understood Omicron variant is gaining a toehold in the nation’s largest city and elsewhere around the country.

“We in New York City have decided to use a pre-emptive strike to really do something bold to stop the further growth of COVID and the dangers it’s causing to all of us,” he said.

De Blasio, a Democrat with just weeks left in office, said the mandate will take effect on December 27, with in-person workers needing to provide proof they have received at least one dose of the vaccine. They will not be allowed to get out of the requirement by agreeing to regular COVID-19 testing instead.

The measure will apply to roughly 184,000 businesses not covered by previous vaccine mandates, ranging from multinational corporations to mom-and-pop businesses in the city of 8.8 million people, according to a spokesperson for the mayor. The city’s private-sector workforce is 3.7 million.

De Blasio said the move is aimed at staving off a spike of infections amid holiday gatherings and as cold weather drives more people indoors, where the virus can spread more easily.

Vaccine rules across states and cities vary widely, with some states resisting any mandates and others requiring the shots for government employees or certain sectors that run a particularly high risk, such as healthcare workers.

But no state has announced a broad private-sector mandate like New York City’s, according to data compiled by the non-partisan National Academy for State Health Policy.

President Joe Biden sought to impose a less far-reaching mandate nationally, requiring employees of businesses with 100 or more workers to either get vaccinated or undergo regular testing. But federal courts have blocked that plan for now, ahead of the January 4 deadline.

De Blasio said he expects his mandate to survive any legal challenges. Employees will be able to ask for religious or medical exemptions.

The mayor also announced that anyone 12 or older who wants to dine indoors at a restaurant, go to a gym or see a show will have to produce proof of having received two shots of the vaccine, up from the current requirement of one dose. In addition, children ages five to 11 will have to show proof of at least one shot, de Blasio said.

De Blasio said he will release more details next week about how the mandate will be enforced.

About 5.9 million adults in New York City have gotten at least a first dose, out of seven million people age 18 and up. That translates to 84 per cent. About 5.8 million New Yorkers of all ages are fully vaccinated.

Cases of the omicron variant have been reported in about one-third of the states, but scientists cannot yet say for certain whether it is more dangerous than previous versions.