One day after city and state officials urged New Yorkers to wear masks indoors, Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced plans to require proof of vaccination for several public indoor settings, including restaurants, bars, gyms, and performance and entertainment facilities. The program, which appears to be the first of its kind in the United States, will start on August 16 with full enforcement beginning on September 13.
“If you are vaccinated, all of that is going to open up to you,” de Blasio said at a press conference on Tuesday. “Unfortunately, if you are not vaccinated, you will not be able to participate in many things.”
Under the new mandate — dubbed the “Key to NYC Pass” — New Yorkers will be required to provide proof of vaccination through a physical vaccine card, the Excelsior Pass, or the city’s forthcoming app to enter many indoor venues. Similar guidelines were issued in France and Italy last month, where people now have to prove they are vaccinated or show a recent negative COVID-19 test.
Notably, only the first dose of a vaccine is required under the New York City program, which experts say may be less effective at protecting against coronavirus variants. Additionally, the mandate does not apply to children under the age of 12, who are not eligible for vaccination at this time and may be at a higher risk of infection.
While other cities in the United States, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, have reinstated mask requirements in recent weeks, New York officials have continued to push vaccination in the face of rising coronavirus numbers. On Monday, de Blasio announced that city workers will be required to receive a vaccination or undergo weekly coronavirus testing. Last week, the mayor announced a $100 incentive program for New Yorkers who had not yet received the vaccine. Eleven thousand New Yorkers have so far received vaccinations through the new initiative, de Blasio said at the Tuesday press conference.
In absence of a vaccine requirement, restaurants and bars across the city have taken matters into their own hands in recent weeks. As of Tuesday morning, a growing number of establishments have issued mask requirements and proof-of-vaccine policies for indoor dining.
Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, a group that represents thousands of restaurants across the city, applauded the city’s efforts to formalize those requirements. “Mandating vaccine requirements for restaurant and bar employees and customers to work and dine indoors is a very difficult step,” he says, “but ultimately may prove an essential move to protecting public health and ensuring that New York City does not revert to restrictions and shut down orders that would again absolutely devastate small businesses that have not yet recovered from the pandemic.”
Tuesday’s announcement also comes on the heels of Gov. Andrew Cuomo calling on NYC to make vaccines mandatory in schools, hospitals, and even private businesses. The state recently required that MTA and Port Authority employees be vaccinated or to submit to weekly COVID-19 tests
As of August 1, the COVID-19 test positivity rate on a seven-day average in NYC was 3.09 percent, according to city data, marking a steady incline in case counts over the past month. The city’s safety threshold for NYC’s test positivity rate on a seven-day average is 5 percent. Among the tested cases in the past four weeks, 72 percent were found to be the highly transmissible delta variant of COVID-19.
More than 4.3 million adult NYC residents — roughly 66 percent of the total adult population — have been fully vaccinated as of August 3.