New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday a first-in-nation COVID-19 vaccine mandate on all private workers that will take effect after Christmas, greatly expanding rules that apply to city workers to roughly 184,000 businesses.
Mr. de Blasio will also require proof of vaccination for 5- to 11-year-olds for indoor dining, fitness and entertainment venues — an existing rule for older persons in the city — starting Dec. 14.
Additionally, children of those ages must get vaccinated by Dec. 14 to participate in extracurricular activities such as sports, band, orchestra and dance.
“New York City will not give a single inch in the fight against COVID-19. Vaccination is the way out of this pandemic, and these are bold, first-in-the-nation measures to encourage New Yorkers to keep themselves and their communities safe,” said Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat who will leave office at the end of the year.
Persons ages 12 years old and older must now show proof of two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, although one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is acceptable to gain access to social venues. Children ages 5-11 can get a single dose to qualify.
“Omicron is here. It looks like it’s very transmissible. That’s just going to make a tough situation, even harder. I mean, the timing is horrible with the winter months,” Mr. de Blasio told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “We’ve got to put this COVID era behind us.”
New York City’s vaccination rate is better than the national average — 82% of adults are fully vaccinated and 89% have received at least one dose — while about 36% of those ages 5-11 are fully vaccinated and 49% have received an initial shot.
Mr. de Blasio wants higher rates.
“The vaccine is relatively new. But what we’re trying to say to parents is, ‘It’s urgent,’” he told MSNBC. “Before omicron grows, before delta continues to stress us even worse in the winter months, get your kid vaccinated.”
Mr. de Blasio‘s decision to push mandates on the private sector is unusually broad compared to mandates around the country that tend to focus on public workers or health care employees.
President Biden issued a vaccine mandate that affects private-sector employees in large companies, though it includes a testing option.
The mayor acknowledged that his mandate may be controversial or end up in court, like Mr. Biden’s regulation, but he exuded confidence.
“We are confident because it’s universal,” Mr. de Blasio said. “I don’t know all the intricacies of what the Biden administration has been through, but I do know this. Our health commissioner has put a series of mandates in place. They have won in court, state court, federal court, every single time.”
Arthur Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine, said he doesn’t know how many private employers in the city have vaccine mandates in place but it is “surely less than half to date.”
He said it is a big change but the city is worried about omicron, an alarming variant that was detected in South Africa in late November and appears to spread quickly.
The city, Mr. Caplan said, “cannot take another shutdown.”
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