NEW YORK — As concerns over COVID-19 variants grow, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday announced a first-in-the-nation vaccine mandate for private sector workers across New York City, expanded the Key to NYC vaccine requirement to include children as young as 5 and said the pass will soon require a second dose.
The mayor gave details at his twice-weekly news conference on Monday morning.
“For all private sector employers in New York City, the time is now,” he said. “This is how we put health and safety first by ensuring that there is a vaccine mandate that reaches everyone universally in the private sector.”
The mandate applies to all in-person private sector employees, from mom-and-pop shops to Fortune 500 companies. Their workers have their first dose of vaccine by Dec. 27. That’s four days before Mayor de Blasio leaves office, and is succeeded by Mayor-elect Eric Adams, who’s wrapping up a trip to Ghana, in West Africa. Before Adams left, the mayor said, they spoke at Gracie Mansion.
“I gave him the initial thinking on this. We had another conversation late this Friday while he was over there,” de Blasio said, referring to his conversation with Adams during the latter’s ongoing visit to Ghana. “I gave him the full update on what we’re doing. Look, he has always said, he understands right now there are urgent threats facing our city.”
For his part, an Adams spokesperson said in a statement, “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.”
In addition to the private sector mandate, the mayor also announced that all five- to eleven-year olds must receive their first vaccination dose by Dec. 14, a week from Tuesday, in order to be admitted to restaurants, entertainment venues, and other locations covered by the Key to NYC pass.
That last requirement is objectionable to the NYC Hospitality Alliance, the organization that represents restaurants and entertainment venues.
Its executive director, Andrew Rigie, said in a statement, in part, “Given the rapidly approaching holidays and considerable impact of the December 14 deadline, the proposal should be delayed until next year.”
Mayor de Blasio also announced on Monday that everybody 12 years old and above will have to have at least two doses of a vaccine, in order to have access to venues.
Also, the mayor said that, beginning Dec. 14, children aged 5 to 11 will be required to get vaccinated to participate in high-risk extracurricular activities like sports, band, orchestra and dance.
The announcements were met mixed reactions.
A woman who chose to only give her first name, Katherine, said, “I’m vaccinated, and my business is also asking people to be vaccinated.” However, she added, “I think it should be personal choice, though.”
Arlene Normale, a Manhattan resident, was strongly against latest mandate.
“I think it’s unconstitutional, OK?” she said. “I think people have the right to make decisions about their own bodies….The courts will be flooded, believe me when I tell you.”
However, Mayor de Blasio pointed out that his private sector vaccination mandate is the latest in a long series of mandates, each one of which has been challenged in court, unsuccessfully.
“We’ve been in court many times on a variety of issues,” de Blasio said. “State court, federal court. We have, every single time, been validated by the courts.”
He said that he’ll meet with business leaders over the next few days to get input, and on Dec. 15, he’ll have details on how the private sector mandate will be implemented and enforced.