At a glance – what de Blasio’s new vaccine mandate will mean for New Yorkers
- All private employers will have to subject in-person employees to a vaccine mandate
- There is no testing opt-out included
- Mandate will apply to an estimated 184,000 businesses in New York
- More information on the requirement will be revealed on December 15
- Children aged five an older will require proof of vaccination to dine indoors, or enter fitness and entertainment venues
- Full vaccine sequence is required to meet mandate, either two doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one shot of J&J vaccine
- Mandate will go into effect on December 27
- School children aged five and older who want to take part in sports, dance, band or orchestra activities will also have to receive at least one vaccine shot by December 14
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is tightening COVID-19 restrictions for 184,000 private businesses and for children over the age of five in what he says is a ‘pre-emptive strike’ over fears the Omicron variant will spread rapidly in the city.
The mayor announced Monday morning that he will institute a vaccine mandate for private sector employees in the city and make children aged five to 11 show proof of vaccination to take part in indoor dining, fitness or entertainment activities.
Currently in New York, only those 12 and older have to show proof of vaccine, and they only have to receive at least one shot to be eligible, with that figure being bumped up to two shots under the new restrictions.
The bombshell vaccine mandate – announced just four days before most private sector employees knock off for the holidays – will begin on December 27, though the mayor says more information will be available on the initiative on December 15.
He said during a Monday press conference that the mandate will apply to in-person employment, with any place with more than one employee on-site subject to it, and there will be no testing opt-out option.
Indoor activity vaccine requirements for children aged five to 11 will go into effect at that time as well. Starting December 14, children wanting to take part in band, sports, orchestra or dance extra-curricular activities at school will have to receive at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Some local business leaders have said they are ‘blindsided’ by the new requirements.
‘Omicron is here, and it looks like it’s very transmissible,’ he said in an interview on MSNBC. ‘The timing is horrible with the winter months.’
At least 90 percent of New Yorkers have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Monday, with 70 percent being fully vaccinated.
It’s unclear how de Blasio plans to enforce the mandate, or whether NYC Mayor-Elect Eric Adams – who is set to take office in January – will keep the rule in place.
A spokesman for Adams, who is in Ghana, said that: ‘The mayor-elect will evaluate this mandate and other Covid strategies when he is in office and make determinations based on science, efficacy and the advice of health professionals.’
Bill de Blasio (pictured), mayor of New York City, said on Monday morning that he will soon implement a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on all private sector employers in the city, along with other vaccine mandates
The mandates announced the mayor include a vaccine mandate for private sector employees working in-person, without a testing option and children over five being required to show proof of vaccine before entering dining, entertainment or fitness venues
On Monday morning, de Blasio told MSNBC’S Morning Joe: ‘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.’
Currently, all people aged 12 or older have to show proof of vaccination to dine indoors or attend indoor events in the city.
The city is among those with the strictest Covid mandates in the nation already.
De Blasio said that he is making this move expecting a combination of factors to cause another Covid surge in the near future.
‘We’ve got Omicron as a new factor, we’ve got the colder weather which is really gonna create additional challenges with the Delta variant, we’ve got holiday gatherings,’ he said.
During a news conference Monday, he said that previous mandates were a great success with little downside.
He also said he expects his mandate to survive potential legal challenges.
Helen Rella, head of the employment law department at Wilk Auslander, a New York based law firm, said that the mandate will likely withstand legal challenge, though things will remain unclear until more details come out on December 15.
Rella says that since the directive is coming through the city’s department of health, which has the authority to put mandates in place to protect public health, it is within the mayor’s power to do this.
New York City business leaders are shocked by the sudden move by the outgoing mayor.
‘There’s no forewarning, no discussion, no idea about whether it’s legal or who he expects to enforce it,’ Kathryn Wylde, head of the business group Partnership for NYC, told the NY Post.
‘There’s been no consultation… we were blindsided…It’s unclear by what authority the mayor is doing this’
The city was averaging nearly 1,600 new Covid cases every day when data was last updated on November 30, a jump of around 25 percent from the 1,200 case daily average from two weeks earlier.
Colder months have been unkind to New York during the pandemic as well.
The new mandate would be the nation’s first to effect children aged five to 11 in this way. According to official data, less than 5% of kids in the age group are fully vaccinated. Pictured: A child in New York City receives a shot of a COVID-19 vaccine on November 29
Both summer Covid surges that struck much of the nation in 2020 and 2021 did not make much noise in New York City.
The first pandemic wave, in early 2020, was disastrous, though, as the city was caught off-guard by the novel virus – reaching over 8,000 new cases per day at some points.
Last winter, Covid struck again, rising new daily cases to over 6,000 at some points during another massive surge.
With cases already trending upwards, and a new variant to worry about, officials are fearing this winter could be a replay of the last.
The Omicron variant was first discovered in late November by South African health officials, and has quickly been sequenced across the world in recent weeks.
New York City has already emerged as an Omicron hotspot, just as it did with the first wave of the virus.
Seven Omicron cases have been detected in the city as of Monday morning, accounting for almost all of the state’s eight cases, and reaching a higher total than anywhere else in America.
One case detected in Minnesota was also in a man who had recently traveled to New York City for a convention.
De Blasio said Monday that cases would likely rise in the near future.
‘You can expect community spread, you have to assume its widespread,’ de Blasio said at a press conference.
De Blasio, who leaves office at the end of the month and has indicated he may seek the nomination for governor of New York next year, has sought to portray himself as a national leader in the fight against COVID-19.
Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin of Long Island, who is seeking the GOP nomination for governor, called the newly announced vaccine requirement a ‘job-killing, small business-suppressing mandate.’
‘When you dangerously combine a far-left, lame duck politician, who is anti-business, one-dimensional, unaccountable, not bright and has a perpetual `I always know best´ attitude,’ you get Bill de Blasio, the Worst Mayor in America,’ Zeldin said in a statement.
In total, 34 cases of Omicron have been sequenced in 17 U.S. states.
Only five states have detected more than one case, though health officials warn the variant is more prevalent than official numbers may make it seem.
California was the first state to detect a case of the variant last week, when San Francisco officials found the variant in a person who had recently traveled to South Africa.
On Friday, the state discovered five more Omicron cases in people who had recently attended a wedding in Wisconsin, bringing the state’s confirmed case count to six.
Wisconsin officials also sequenced a case on Saturday, though it is not tied to the wedding, and instead in another man that had recently traveled to South Africa.
Over the weekend, the world eclipsed 1,000 confirmed cases of the new strain just only a dozen days since its discovery.
Health officials do not yet know much about the variant, but it is believed to be highly contagious and it may have the ability to evade protection provided by the vaccines.
In South Africa, new daily cases have jumped from around 300 per day when the variant was first discovered, to over 10,000 per day as of now.
There is some positive news, though, as officials are reporting that Omicron cases are generally more mild than cases of other virus strains.
Hospitalizations and deaths are usually a lagging statistic when compared to cases, though, so officials are still weary on declaring Omicron as a minor threat, and de Blasio says he wants to get ahead of it.
‘We’re going to have some other measures as well to really focus of maximizing vaccination quickly so we can get ahead of Omicron, and all the other challenges we’re facing right now with Covid,’ he told MSNBC.
De Blasio’s indoor dining mandate will be the first to affect children as young as five.
The five to 11 age group was not eligible for the Covid vaccine until regulators authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for them in late November.
According to official data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccine uptake among the age group remains low.
Only 17 percent of children five to 11 have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, and less than five percent are fully vaccinated.
The mandate would keep a large majority of children in New York City from taking part in some activities unless vaccine demand among parents greatly changes in the coming weeks.
While many local and state governments allow for private businesses to have their own vaccination requirements, government enforced vaccine requirements for indoor activities are relatively rare.
Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle are among the small group of cities to have these types of restrictions in place, though none of them affect children under the age of 12.
The federal government is also trying to institute a vaccine mandate on to private sector employees, with President Joe Biden announcing in early November that all companies with over 100 employees would be forced to implement a vaccine mandate by regulators.
Biden’s move has been met with backlash, though, and federal courts have blocked the mandate, calling it government overreach.