New York is first US city to mandate vaccines for restaurants, gyms

A health care worker takes a nasal swab sample from a student to test for Covid-19 at the Brooklyn Health Medical Alliance in New York
·3 min read

New York will become the first major US city to require proof of vaccination for people attending indoor venues such as restaurants, gyms and shows, under a plan announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio Tuesday.

The announcement comes as public bodies and private businesses in the United States step up vaccine requirements as the country battles the highly infectious Delta variant.

"If you're vaccinated... you have the key, you can open the door. But if you're unvaccinated, unfortunately, you will not be able to participate in many things," de Blasio told a press conference.

With coronavirus cases again surging in the United States, de Blasio said the policy, dubbed the "Key to NYC," would be launched on August 16, followed by a transition period before enforcement a month later.

There will not be a specific pass, rather residents will just have to show proof of vaccination, such as through their vaccine card or a pre-existing state app

"It's time for people to see vaccination as literally necessary to living a good, and full and healthy life," said de Blasio.

In recent weeks, the mayor, and the governor of New York state, Andrew Cuomo, have issued regulations tightening vaccination rules as the United States struggles to suppress the Delta variant.

New York state will require all "public-facing" health care workers to get vaccinated from September, and all of the state's tens of thousands of employees to show proof of vaccination or face weekly tests.

In New York, a city of more than eight million inhabitants, 71.8 percent of adults have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to official figures.

- Vaccinations stall -

The moves come as the United States grapples with boosting vaccination rates, which have stalled badly for months despite the US having the highest supply of any country.

Many unions and critics of mandates have spoken out against required vaccinations, citing personal freedom arguments.

But the New York City Hospitality Alliance welcomed de Blasio's announcement Tuesday.

Executive director Andrew Rigie said in a statement that while the mandate will pose "economic and operational challenges" to restaurants it may help "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."

America is being battered by the hyper-contagious Delta variant, which has sent national daily cases soaring.

Across the country, hospitals have seen on average more than 6,200 daily Covid admissions, while more than 300 people are dying every day.

Momentum is picking up for vaccine mandates in the private sector, with Disney and Walmart implementing new requirements and incentives for employees.

Last week, President Joe Biden's administration announced federal workers would need to either get vaccinated or submit to regular tests, following similar steps by California and New York.

US health authorities last week reinstituted guidance for fully vaccinated people to wear masks indoors in areas considered high-risk.