People dining indoors at New York City’s restaurants, browsing its museums, or sweating in its gyms now have to show proof that they are at least partially inoculated against COVID-19 as the city begins the US’s largest effort yet to exclude the unvaccinated from public places.
Signs on the front door and windows of The Stop Inn on Tuesday warned patrons arriving for breakfast that they had to show proof of at least one vaccine shot to be allowed to dine inside.
The vaccination mandate, announced two weeks ago by Mayor Bill de Blasio, aims to persuade more people to get vaccinated or else miss out on city amenities like restaurants and bars, movie theatres, bowling alleys, concert halls, indoor sports arenas, and other entertainment venues.
Employees of those businesses also must be vaccinated, with holdouts facing the possibility of being fired if they refuse.
The measures are also fraught with complications, as restaurant servers, bartenders and ticket agents become the frontline enforcers for vaccination rules. Skittish about losing business, but mindful that another economic shutdown could be disastrous, some restaurant and bar owners are embracing the mandates as a way to control the virus and keep their doors open.
Others – particularly in parts of the city where people have resisted getting the vaccine – worry it will be a fatal blow to businesses that were prevented for months last year from serving patrons indoors.
“We do not want to go back to restrictions,” de Blasio said at a virtual news conference Tuesday. “The key to our progress is vaccination.”
The city makes exceptions for children under 12, who now don’t qualify for the vaccine. It is also exempting certain workers, like players from visiting professional sports teams.
Since early August, more than 300,000 additional people have gotten at least one shot of a vaccine, according to city-data. At least 5.2 million of the city’s 8.8 million residents have gotten at least one shot, with nearly 5 million fully vaccinated.
The number of people getting shots has ticked upward again in the city as the more contagious delta variant has fuelled a surge in infections and hospitalizations.
New York City averaged 2,000 new cases of the coronavirus a day over the past seven days, up from around 200 a day in late June.
Some cities and states, as well as the federal government, have moved more aggressively to get more people inoculated or have them face consequences such as regular testing or losing access to elements of public life.
Since New York City made its announcement, San Francisco and New Orleans have followed suit with policies to exclude the unvaccinated from some businesses. Los Angeles is considering similar measures. All are led by Democratic mayors, underscoring the political divide over mandates on vaccines, masks, and other measures.
Nevada’s governor enacted a similar policy this week, and the Las Vegas Raiders responded by becoming the first NFL team to require proof of vaccination to attend games in 2021.
The New Orleans program, which requires patrons of restaurants, gyms, bars, and event venues to produce proof of vaccination or a recent negative test, took effect Monday, but enforcement won’t begin until next week.
New York City’s new rules went into effect Tuesday, but it won’t begin fining businesses that don’t comply until Sept. 13.
A US $10-million media blitz launched Tuesday as part of the city’s visitor outreach. The mayor also announced that about 100 vaccination sites will pop up at such places as gyms and that the city would send out over 600 canvassers to help.
By Joe Cusmano