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NYC Mayor De Blasio Announces Private-Sector Vaccine Mandate

Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks in New York, August 3, 2021. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio announced a vaccine mandate for all private-sector employers Monday in anticipation of a winter COVID surge wrought by the Omicron variant.

“We’ve got omicron as a new factor, we’ve got the colder weather, which is really going to create additional challenges with the delta variant, we’ve got holiday gatherings,” de Blasio told MSNBC Monday morning. “We in New York City have decided to use a preemptive strike to really do something bold to stop the further growth of Covid and the dangers it’s causing to all of us.”

Effective December 27 and applying to 184,000 businesses, the mandate requires that all workers in private companies in the city present proof of vaccination as a condition of employment.

“We’re going to announce a first-in-the-nation measure,” de Blasio said. “Our health commissioner will announce the vaccine mandate for private- sector employers across the board. All private-sector employers in New York City will be covered by this vaccine mandate.”

After imposing a vaccine mandate for those who patronize leisure businesses and populated indoor venues such as restaurants and movie theaters a few months ago, de Blasio expanded that order Monday to include children aged five to eleven, a demographic recently approved by the FDA to receive the shot. That “Key to NYC” program, under which customers only had to verify that they had one dose to enter certain establishments, has been updated to a two-dose requirement.

The mayor said additional guidance regarding enforcement and compliance will be issued on December 15.

“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,” de Blasio said.

During a press conference Monday, de Blasio said penalty “is always a tool we have” in the case of businesses defying the mandate, but he reiterated that he believes there will be widespread and enthusiastic compliance. He added that the order applies to in-person work, meaning that remote employees will be exempt. He suggested that the guidelines will likely include a process for requesting reasonable accommodation on religious or other grounds, as with many other city and state mandates.

There is no testing option as an alternative, de Blasio confirmed. Responding to a question about President Biden’s OSHA vaccine mandate, which was suspended by temporary injunction in court, a member of the panel clarified that the NYC health commissioner has the authority to issue a mandate where OSHA did not.

Democratic New York City mayor-elect Eric Adams said he will evaluate de Blasio’s latest directive when he assumes office on January 1. Adams has previously stated that he plans to carry the mantle of his predecessor on major policy issues, including vaccine mandates.

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