NEW YORK — Proof of vaccination in order to enter restaurants or other businesses is something that the city needs to “seriously consider,” according to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
He also said that proof of vaccination may be among the rules for entry into a series of five “Homecoming Concerts,” one in each borough, that the city will stage next month, a change from earlier inclination.
The mayor’s comments, made on his weekly radio appearance on WNYC public radio, came in the wake of criticism about the concert series potentially becoming a vector for the spread of the delta variant, since vaccination numbers citywide have leveled off, and COVID-19 rates have been making a steady rise.
One part of the five boroughs where infection rates are high, but vaccination rates are not, is the southern half of Staten Island.
Diana Rodriguez lives there and spoke with PIX11 News about vaccination status in her community.
“If you get vaccinated, fine,” she said. “It’s a personal choice. I don’t understand what the big push [to get vaccinated] is about.”
The Great Kills neighborhood, where Rodriguez was shopping on Friday afternoon, has an infection rate of 4.49%, according to city records. Health officials say that it should be below 1% in order to avoid viral spreaD.
City data also shows that hospitalizations are highest in Staten Island.
Still, residents like Doug Jones say that they’re reluctant to get vaccinated. Jones said that he’d contracted coronavirus last year.
“If I didn’t have the antibodies,” he said, he’d have considered getting the vaccine. On the other hand, he said, “I’m not big on stuff being put in my body like that.”
But City Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi, who also contracted COVID-19 last year, got vaccinated; he’s said that it’s important for COVID survivors to do so.
The administration of which he’s a part is also planning a series of five outdoor concerts, called “Homecoming Concerts,” one in each borough, next month. The plan has gotten criticism from City Council Health Committee Chair Mark Levine and others for potentially bringing crowds of unvaccinated people together to see the music stars, and risking COVID spread in the process.
On Friday, though, de Blasio hinted that there will be coronavirus restrictions at the events.
“Next week we intend to put out a lot of details around the concerts,” de Blasio said during his radio appearance, “and we’ll talk about those rules.”
In the segment, host Brian Lehrer asked the mayor if he was interested in requiring proof of vaccination for people to enter restaurants and other businesses. Lehrer said that a similar proposal is now being considered in France.
“I think that’s a direction we need to seriously consider” here, the mayor said. “I think there’s a lot to be said for that.”
Nothing is definite, however, and while proof of vaccination is not required, an epidemiologist, who’s also the director of infection prevention and control at Mt. Sinai, said that it’s important for vaccinated people to be patient with people hesitant to get the vaccine.
“They feel powerless and helpless,” Dr. Waleed Javaid said, and pointed out that for most of the last year, most people had little control over their healthcare situation because of the virus.
“When they are asked to get vaccinated,” he continued, “the only thing they have right now is the power to control their own vaccination, and they’re trying to exert some control in their life.”
At the same time, said Dr. Javaid, “If you can convince one person to get vaccinated today, I think you have saved your entire community.”