New York City continues to push the boundary on COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday that employees not previously covered under the existing “Key to NYC” vaccination requirements and who perform in-person work for private businesses in the city must receive at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 27.
That decision amounts to a vaccine mandate for all private employers, from big Wall Street banks to corner stores. It's the most sweeping vaccine mandate of any state or big city in the U.S., and businesses will not be allowed to get out of the requirement by agreeing to regular COVID-19 testing instead.
The measure will apply to roughly 184,000 businesses not covered by previous vaccine mandates, ranging from multinational corporations to mom-and-pop operations in the city of 8.8 million people, according to a spokesperson for the mayor. The city’s private-sector workforce is 3.7 million.
“Key to NYC” requirements currently in place for restaurants, fitness facilities and entertainment venues have also been expanded to require proof of two doses of COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 27, when previously only proof of an initial dose was required.
Speaking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” DeBlasio said the move is aimed at staving off a spike of infections amid holiday gatherings and as cold weather drives more people indoors, where the virus is more likely to spread.
Vaccine mandates across states and cities vary widely, with some states resisting any mandates and others requiring the shots for government employees or certain sectors that run a particularly high risk, such as health care workers. But most officials have not announced mandates reaching as far into the private sector, nor mandates covering so many people.
President Joe Biden has tried to impose a less far-reaching mandate nationally, requiring employees of businesses with 100 or more workers to either get vaccinated or undergo regular testing. Federal courts have blocked that plan for now ahead of its Jan. 4 deadline.
According to The Associated Press, about 5.9 million adults in New York City have gotten at least a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, out of 7 million people ages 18 and up. That translates to 84%. About 5.8 million New Yorkers of all ages are fully vaccinated.
The new mandate takes effect days before de Blasio leaves office and Democrat Eric Adams is due to be sworn in. Adams spokesman Evan Thies said in a statement that the mayor-elect “will evaluate this mandate and other COVID strategies when he is in office and make determinations based on science, efficacy and the advice of health professionals.”
The Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, which includes some 30,000 businesses big and small, said it supports the tightened measures, but that doesn't include everyone. Other industry groups said the plan would further strain their businesses, which are still struggling to recover from the pandemic due to staff shortages and other issues.
How the new mandates will be enforced is unclear.