NYC to Impose Private-Sector Vaccine Mandate as Covid Cases Rise

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, seeking to head off a potential upsurge in cases in the face of the new omicron variant.

Customers shop inside the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) gift shop in New York, U.S,. on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021.
By Elaine Chen
December 06, 2021 | 10:51 AM

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, seeking to head off a potential upsurge in cases in the face of the new omicron variant.

His office said in a statement Monday that the mandate will cover roughly 184,000 businesses.

It said 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 the fully vaccinated.

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“This would be my advice to mayors, governors, CEOs all over the country -- use these vaccine mandates, and the more universal they are, the more likely employees will say ‘okay it’s time, I’m going to do this,’ because you can’t jump from one industry to another, or one company to another,” he said in an interview on MSNBC television. “It’s something that needs to be universal to protect all of us.”

De Blasio, who will leave office shortly after the new mandate takes effect, didn’t elaborate on how it would be enforced in the interview. The press release said the city will issue enforcement and accommodation guidance on Dec. 15.

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.

“We have to assume community spread at this point,” de Blasio said. “Omicron is here.”

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The city has said it’s working to determine who has come into contact with people infected with the variant, including a Minnesota resident who attended an anime convention in the city last month that drew 53,000 attendees.

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 private school employees. 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 mandate, but is facing legal challenges. A federal court halted the administration’s rule forcing 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, de Blasio said he’s confident the city will prevail, noting other vaccine requirements the city has imposed that have won in courts.

“Vaccine mandates are the one thing that really breaks through,” de Blasio said. “Let’s lean into it even more.”