New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has less than a month remaining in office, issued a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for all private sector workers in New York City. The mayor believes this to be a pre-emptive strike against a new Covid wave resulting from the cold winter months, holiday gatherings, and the Omicron variant (Covid rates have been rising post-Thanksgiving, separate from the Omicron variant).
New York City currently requires proof of Covid-19 vaccination for a variety of activities for workers and customers such as indoor dining, gyms, and performances. These rules for dining and entertainment will apply to children ages 5 to 11, starting on December 14th. The program now requires two vaccine doses, up from one (unless you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine). In addition, all public sector employees have been required to show proof of vaccination for months. About 90 percent of adults in NYC have at least one dose of the vaccine and booster shots are readily available.
Mr. de Blasio believes that this mandate will hold up in court because unlike the Federal mandate, NYC’s is universal. Also, the vaccine mandates for city employees have been challenged in court and have held up to the legal actions taken by unions and city workers in both state and federal courts. 94 percent of the NYC workforce is vaccinated.
The mandate is set to take effect on December 27th and is expected to cover around 184,000 businesses. Though the mayor did not say it publicly, it is likely that the desire to get workers to return to the office, particularly Midtown Manhattan played a role in creating this mandate. There is no word on how it will be enforced but NYC should provide enforcement and accommodation guidance on December 15th along with additional resources to support small businesses with implementation.