NYC Becomes First U.S. City to Create Vaccine Mandate for Gyms, Indoor Dining, and Entertainment

NYC Becomes First U.S. City to Create Vaccine Mandate for Gyms, Indoor Dining, and Entertainment
The Manhattan skyline (Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP, Getty Images)

New York City is about to become much less hospitable to those intentionally not vaccinated against covid-19. This morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to institute a sweeping mandate that would require people to be at least partially vaccinated in order to partake in gyms, indoor dining, and other public indoor activities, as well as to work at these businesses. The requirements, the first of their kind in the U.S., will rely on existing forms of vaccination proof as well as a system newly created by the city.

The mandate, detailed by de Blasio during a press conference at City Hall, will call for vaccine-eligible people to provide proof of vaccination when entering gyms, restaurants, and indoor entertainment venues. This proof can come in the form of the paper vaccination card given to people after their first dose, but it can also come from existing digital verification apps like New York State’s Excelsior pass or the city’s own recently debuted app. The full details of the mandate are still in flux, but according to de Blasio, it will phase in starting August 16, and full enforcement will start on September 13.

“The only way to patronize these establishments indoors will be if you’re vaccinated, at least one dose,” de Blasio said during the press conference. “The goal here is to convince everyone that this is the time. If we want to stop the Delta variant, the time is now. And that means getting vaccinated right now.”

Private businesses, local governments and parts of the federal government have started to put forward their own vaccine requirements, but this is the most far-reaching mandate implemented by a city in the U.S. so far. Last month, France became the first country to institute similar restrictions on indoor activities for the unvaccinated, which were approved by the parliament there late last month.

While some doctors and public health experts have been wary about the use of mandates to boost vaccine uptake, others have recently argued that they’ve now become essential in the face of continued hesitancy and misleading propaganda from the anti-vaccination movement. Of course, there do exist mandates for many other vaccines, largely tied to public grade school or college eligibility. In New York City, only about 66% of eligible adults are fully vaccinated against covid-19, with similar rates even among city employees. The city, like many parts of the country, is now experiencing a rise in cases, fuelled by the emergence of the more transmissible Delta variant.

While the mandate will represent the heaviest stick for encouraging vaccination in the city, there do remain some carrots. Last week, de Blasio announced a $US100 ($136) incentive for city residents who get vaccinated. City employees, meanwhile, will soon be required to either get vaccinated or endure weekly testing.