NYC to Impose Vaccine Mandate on Businesses as Cases Rise
(Bloomberg) -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will become the nation’s first to impose a vaccine mandate on private-sector workers starting on Dec. 27, characterizing it as a “preemptive strike” to head off a potential upsurge in Covid-19 cases in the face of the omicron variant.
His office said the mandate, which will take effect just days before de Blasio leaves office due to term limits, will cover roughly 184,000 businesses.
The city is also strengthening the vaccine rules for indoor dining, entertainment and fitness -- which currently require people to have received at least one dose -- to permit access only for those 12 and older who are fully vaccinated. Children ages 5 to 11 will need to show proof of one dose of the vaccine starting Dec. 14.
Governor Kathy Hochul was supportive of de Blasio’s move, saying she is deferring to local leaders on whether stricter rules are needed in their communities.
But it’s unclear whether incoming mayor Eric Adams will maintain the private-sector mandate. De Blasio on Monday said he spoke with the mayor-elect while he was working on it but Adams spokesman Evan Thies said he “will evaluate this mandate and other Covid strategies when he is in office.”
De Blasio said the steps are needed to prevent the virus from gaining ground, saying the city can’t afford to see the types of lockdowns that are emerging in countries like Germany.
“We cannot let those restrictions come back -- we cannot have shut downs here in New York City,” he said during a press conference.
The mayor’s decision to impose the mandate on in-person employees caught some businesses by surprise and may face legal challenges, as President Joe Biden’s efforts to require vaccinations have.
“Inconsistent policies at the federal, state and city levels are not helpful and it is unclear who will enforce a mayoral mandate, and whether it is even legal,” said Kathryn Wylde, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Partnership for New York City, a business group. “It is hard to imagine that the mayor can do what the President is being challenged to accomplish.”
De Blasio said the order would be issued by his health department and that the mandate is allowed under its legal authority.
Guidance on how it will be enforced will come on Dec. 15. De Blasio declined to comment on what sort of penalties businesses could face for non-compliance. He said the order won’t allow for a testing option for non-vaccinated employees and will require the first dose to be administered by the time the requirement kicks in.
A post-Thanksgiving rise in Covid-19 infections in New York City and the detection of the first few cases of the omicron variant threatens to slow the city’s economic recovery. While the omicron cases so far appear to be unrelated, according to Governor Kathy Hochul, officials have warned people to assume the variant is already being transmitted locally.
De Blasio said the city needs to “get ahead of this problem before it deepens.”
Mask Rules Strengthened
New York City last week strengthened its recommendation for residents to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status and announced additional vaccine mandates on childcare workers and employees at private and religious schools. The city earlier required all municipal workers get shots.
Many large employers in the city are already requiring staff be vaccinated to return to offices, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley.
The Biden administration has attempted to impose a private-sector vaccine mandate, but is facing legal challenges. A federal court halted the administration’s rule requiring private employers to require Covid-19 vaccines or tests, and another federal court will hear the consolidated case against the mandate. Separate cases involving requirements for health-care workers and federal contractors also are being litigated.
When asked about potential legal challenges to a New York City mandate on private workers during an interview on MSNBC, de Blasio said he’s confident the city will prevail, noting other vaccine requirements the city has imposed that have won in courts.
That view was echoed at his press conference by New York City’s Corporation Counsel Georgia Pestana, who said the health commissioner has the legal power to issue the mandate to protect public health. She said the authority has been upheld by the courts.
“We’re confident that this will survive any challenges,” she said.
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