New York City strengthened its vaccine requirements Monday for entry at indoor restaurants and fitness, entertainment, and performance venues.
Mayor Bill de Blasio expanded the “Key to NYC” program to require children aged 5-11 to show proof of one vaccination dose to enter these venues beginning December 14. Additionally, New York City mandated everyone age 12 and older show proof of two vaccine doses instead of one, except for those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This rule takes effect December 27.
Also, in three weeks, private-sector workers will be required to be vaccinated for in-person work. The mayor announced this as a first-in-the-nation vaccine mandate, affecting around 184,000 businesses.
Children aged 5-11 must also be vaccinated to participate in extracurricular activities deemed high-risk, including sports, band, orchestra, and dance. The first dose is required by December 14.
Residents may show proof of vaccination via a CDC vaccination card, the New York State Excelsior Pass, the Clear Health Pass, or the NYC Covid Safe App.
Additional guidance will be released December 15, the city said.
“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 in a statement. “From workplace mandates, to $100 incentives, to mobile and at-home vaccination offerings, no place in the nation has done more to end the COVID era. And if you have not taken this step yet: there’s no better day than today to stand up for your city.”
So far, New York City has administered over 12.5 million vaccination doses. Nearly 6.5 million New Yorkers and 89 percent of adults have received at least one dose.
Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, agreed that public health and safety is paramount, but he also believes the new mandate poses more challenges for an “an already beleaguered restaurant industry in need of tourism support and revenues this holiday season.”
“U.S. families visiting New York City for scheduled holiday vacations may not be able to meet the vaccination requirements for children or themselves in time, and children aged 5-11 across the globe aren’t universally authorized to get vaccinated,” Rigie said in a statement. “Given the rapidly approaching holidays and considerable impact of the December 14 deadline, the proposal should be delayed until next year.”
In August, the Independent Restaurant Owners Association Rescue, along with several restaurants and fitness centers, sued New York City and de Blasio over the vaccine issue, but the litigation was dismissed. On a broader scale, the federal government announced a new rule requiring vaccination or weekly testing for companies with 100 employees or more, but enforcement was paused after a federal court blocked the measure.
In light of the vaccine requirements on New York’s private sector, some are predicting other municipalities will follow suit.
“We can expect to see many other mayors and local governmental entities across the country follow his (de Blasio’s) lead,” Steve Bell, a partner at international law firm Dorsey & Whitney, said in a statement. “Of course, there will be resistance and no doubt legal objections. However, the harsh realities of the seemingly more contagious Omicron variant create an atmosphere in which aggressive measures may be required to halt the spread of the virus,” Bell says.
Keith Wilkes, labor and employment partner/shareholder at the national law firm Hall Estill, says New York City should expect immediate legal challenges. However, there may not be a high likelihood of success.
“As far as the impact of COVID-19, New York City is a war-torn city,” he said in a statement. “It will be difficult for challengers to the private employer mandate to stop the mandate—even temporarily—during the pendency of a legal challenge, or to succeed on appeal in the New York state appellate courts or Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which is the federal appellate court for New York.”