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NYC to mandate vaccination of all private-sector employees

The move announced by Mayor de Blasio would expand the current requirement on restaurants to all employers.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Saying a “pre-emptive strike” is necessary to avert a rapid spread of the omicron coronavirus, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday morning that he will require all private businesses in the city to mandate their employees get vaccinated  against COVID-19.

The requirement would take effect Dec. 27.

The move could be welcomed by the city’s restaurants, which have been operating under an employee and guest vaccine mandate since Aug. 17.  Research by the New York State Restaurant Association shows that some employees quit instead of rolling up their sleeves. Presumably some walked off because they could find employment elsewhere, in jobs that had no vaccine requirement. Now that option would be closed to them.

De Blasio also announced Monday that he would expand the vaccine mandate for restaurant guests to include children aged 5 to 11. The city had imposed the original customer inoculation requirement before health authorities had OK'd the use of the three currently approved vaccines by persons under age 12.

In addition, adult restaurant patrons will be required as of Dec. 27 to prove they’ve had both of the shots required to be fully vaccinated with the Pfizer or Moderna versions.

"We in N.Y.C. have decided to use a preemptive strike to really do something bold to stop the further growth of COVID," de Blasio said on the MSNBC news program “Morning Joe.”

The employer mandate would apply to all businesses in the city, de Blasio indicated. He did not provide the option of having employees tested for COVID-19 as an alternative to being vaccinated.

New York would become the first jurisdiction in the nation to impose an employee vaccine mandate. A federal requirement for companies employing at least 100 people is set to take effect on Jan. 4.  That mandate has been challenged in a 34-plaintiff suit currently pending before a federal circuit court.

A provision of the federal mandate, a requirement that all unvaccinated employees of companies meeting the 100-worker thresholder wear face masks, was set to take effect Dec. 5. But the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) said it would not enforce the emergency move until legal questions about the whole mandate is settled in the courts.

De Blasio will step down as mayor on Dec. 31. 

His move comes as officials try to determine how much of a threat the new omicron variant poses. Initial assessments suggest the symptoms triggered by an infection are less severe than the effects of early coronavirus variants, but the experts warn that those indications have yet to be verified.  Still, the nation's leading authority on infectious diseases, Anthony Fauci, called the initial indicators "encouraging."

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