New York on Tuesday became the first big city in the US to announce it will require proof of Covid-19 vaccinations not only for all those employed by the city but also for all members of the public who want to dine indoors at a restaurant, see an indoor performance or go to the gym.
City mayor Bill de Blasio noted that the city’s existing policies, including a vaccine mandate for city workers and $100 incentive payments, have already contributed to a rise in vaccinations, but it was time to go further.
“If you want to participate in our society fully, you’ve got to get vaccinated,” de Blasio said at a press conference on Tuesday morning. “So it’s time, and this is going to send that message clearly.”
Around 5 million New Yorkers have had at least one dose of vaccine and about 66% of adults in the city are fully vaccinated, according to official data.
Tourism has been returning to the city and the announcement will have serious implications for visitors.
On Monday, the US nationally reached Joe Biden’s goal of getting at least one Covid-19 shot into 70% of American adults – a month late and amid a surge by the Delta variant that is overwhelming some hospitals and prompting renewed pandemic regulations in many parts of the country.
But significant parts of some states have vaccination rates below 30%, predominantly majority-Republican states and counties, including parts of Louisiana, northern Arkansas and southern Missouri, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Texas and South Carolina.
More than 50,000 people were hospitalized across the US as of Monday, according to the US department of health and human services, the first time that number has been surpassed since late February.
It is significantly fewer people than during the peak in cases, deaths and hospitalizations this January, but similar to the high rates last summer when coronavirus vaccines were still in development.
The federal agency the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has noted that 99.99% of people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 have not had an infection that resulted in hospitalization or death.
Most new cases of coronavirus are occurring in southern states, especially Florida and Texas, but infections are rising across the country, including in New York, and officials have warned that a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” is unfolding.
De Blasio’s new requirements for the public will be phased in over several weeks from mid-August and inspections and enforcement will begin in September, he said.
The mayor earlier in the week recommended that people go back to wearing masks in indoor public spaces, but stopped short of a city mask mandate.
But Tuesday’s announcement was the most aggressive step the city has taken yet to curb a surge in cases caused by the Delta variant.
De Blasio praised Broadway theatres and some restaurant and gym companies who have already said they would require patrons to prove they are vaccinated.
“The only way to patronize these establishments indoors will be if you’re vaccinated,” de Blasio, a Democrat, said. “The goal here is to convince everyone that this is the time. If we’re going to stop the Delta variant, the time is now. And that means getting vaccinated right now.”
The mayor announced last week that city employees would be required to get vaccinated by mid-September or to face weekly testing, and he has offered a $100 incentive for city residents who get inoculated.
The city plans to create a so-called health pass called the “key to NYC pass” to provide proof of vaccination required for workers and customers at indoor dining, gyms, entertainment and performances.
De Blasio described the pass as a “first-in-the-nation approach” that will help build upon the significant progress New York has already made in terms of vaccinations.
Some states have vaccination rates below 30%, predominantly majority-Republican states, as the issue has become heavily politicized.
The Associated Press contributed reporting