NEW YORK — On the same day it was announced that all state government employees will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or get tested every week, New York City officials announced that the city will give $100 debit cards to New Yorkers who get their first COVID shot at a city-run vaccination site.
The new incentive to get people vaccinated — money — was announced by the mayor Wednesday, as the push to vaccinate takes on new intensity amid the growth of the delta variant.
A $100 debit card is being given to every New York resident who gets their first dose, said de Blasio. His economic development chief, Rachel Loeb, explained the details.
“It’s quite simple,” said Loeb, during the mayor’s daily news conference. “You go to https://www.vax4nyc.nyc.org to find the qualifying sites. And you’ll be issued a $100 prepaid debit card. If you have an email address, you can redeem it immediately and you can be issued a digital card. You can even get it while you’re waiting during your observation period. If you don’t have an email address, a physical card will be mailed to you at an address entered when you book your appointment.”
The move came days after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that all city healthcare workers must be vaccinated by Monday, Aug. 2, or get tested weekly, and that all city employees have to meet those same requirements by September 13.
On Wednesday, though, the mayor and city healthcare leaders said that even though the CDC had issued a mask mandate for all areas of the country with what it deemed to be substantial or high risk of viral spread, the city will not yet issue a mask mandate. All of New York City, and six North Jersey counties have been designated substantial or high risk.
“I want to emphasize we got this less than 24 hours ago,” Mayor de Blasio said, referring to the CDC indoor mask recommendation. “We really want to make sure that we’ve looked at all of the issues, all the ramifications, the research, to figure out what it means and the right way to handle it.”
Dr. Mitchell Katz, the CEO of the city’s Health and Hospitals corporation, elaborated.
“While the CDC issued their guidance yesterday at about 3:00 p.m.,” said Katz, “they have not yet released their scientific reports on the data that underlies the recommendation. I think that we owe it to New Yorkers to very carefully, as you say, review that information, and understand its implications.”
Dr. Dyan Hes has handled COVID-19 and other illnesses as a practicing physician and medical director of Gramercy Park Pediatrics. She said that the city’s hesitancy to implement a mask order is the right way to go for now.
“I actually agree with that,” she said in an interview, “because I feel that we have to base our decisions on the science.”
“I’m not sure that these universal mask recommendations really change the pandemic,” Dr. Hes continued, “because we have just too many people not participating in the rules.”
“That’s why we’ve been trying to stress that every single adult be vaccinated,” she said.
For now, neither the city nor the state is ordering masks to be worn in indoor public settings.
The chair of the City Council Health Committee, Mark Levine, said that while he endorses more vaccinations, the mask mandate should be followed.
“The CDC made a very clear statement,” Levine said in an interview. “We don’t have more time. The lesson of this pandemic is that you have to act fast.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Cuomo’s declaration on vaccines for state employees was issued Wednesday at an event with the Association for a Better New York, a coalition of private and public organizations who say they’re dedicated to improving New York City living.
The governor said that while he expects the tens of thousands of people who work for the state to either get vaccinated, or be tested weekly by Labor Day, he had a stronger order for state-employed healthcare workers who are public-facing — employees who regularly encounter the public in healthcare settings.
“The front line workers must be vaccinated, period,” Cuomo said. He added that that meant those workers had no option to get tested weekly.