New York City’s Sweeping Vaccine Mandate Will Help Stop Covid
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The omicron variant of Covid-19 is moving into New York City with astonishing speed. The percentage of tests coming up positive doubled in three days last week. Lines at testing sites are again lengthening. Breakthrough cases are closing restaurants and canceling Broadway shows.
Strengthening the city’s defenses needs to be a top priority. Mayor Bill de Blasio is right to impose a new mandate for everyone who works in the city to show proof of vaccination. Beginning Dec. 27, businesses will be required to keep track of their employees’ vaccine status and post signs affirming their compliance. Documented medical or religious exemptions are allowed.
Plenty of complaints have already been voiced. Some business owners say the new rules were imposed out of the blue, will be overly difficult to enforce, and could shrink an already overstretched workforce. Such worries are understandable, but experience suggests they’re misplaced. Research has shown that mandates cause very few people to actually quit their jobs, while many companies have demonstrated that they protect employees — and thus help businesses stay open. Naturally, lawsuits have been threatened. But local and state public-health mandates have generally stood up in court.
More important: Requirements of this kind are the best way to stop the spread of Covid-19. New York City’s existing rules — which mandate vaccinations for municipal employees, and for anyone entering restaurants, entertainment venues and gyms — have provided a strong incentive for people to get their shots. Yet 18% of adults in the city remain unvaccinated, as do 60% of eligible children. That leaves too large a space for the coronavirus, especially the highly transmissible omicron variant, to circulate.
The new rules expand the vaccine requirement to all the city’s 184,000 businesses. Those that fail to make sure their employees have been inoculated face fines starting at $1,000 per violation — though the mayor says he’ll prioritize assistance with compliance over any punishments.
Impositions of this scale should never be undertaken lightly. But there’s strong evidence that the new rules will make everyone in the city safer: workers, residents and tourists. Ultimately, that will do more to help local businesses weather this crisis than anything else.
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