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All private employers in New York City will have to require their workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the mayor announced Monday, imposing one of the most aggressive vaccine rules in the United States.
The move by Mayor Bill de Blasio comes as cases are climbing again in the U.S., and the worrisome but little-understood omicron variant is gaining a toehold in New York and elsewhere around the country.
De Blasio, a Democrat with just weeks left in office as leader of the nation’s largest city, said the mandate will take effect on Dec. 27, with workers needing to provide proof of having received at least one dose of the vaccine.
It will apply to roughly 184,000 businesses in the city of 8.8 million people, according to a spokesperson for the mayor.
De Blasio said the measure is aimed at staving off a spike of infections amid holiday gatherings and as cold weather drives more people indoors, where the virus is more likely to spread.
Vaccine rules across states and cities vary widely, with some states resisting any mandates and others requiring the shots for government employees or certain sectors that run a particularly high risk, such as health-care workers.
But no state has announced as broad a private-sector mandate as New York City has, according to the non-partisan National Academy for State Health Policy.
U.S. President Joe Biden sought to impose a similar mandate nationally, one that would apply to businesses with 100 or more workers, but federal courts have put that on hold ahead of the Jan. 4 deadline. And the Biden plan would allow workers to opt out of the shots by getting tested regularly for COVID-19.
De Blasio said he expects his new mandate to survive any legal challenges. While workers will be able to ask for religious or medical exemptions, they will not be allowed to choose regular testing instead. The mandate will apply only to in-person employees, he said.
Also, the mayor announced that anyone 12 or older who wants to dine indoors at a restaurant, go to a gym or see a show will have to produce proof of having received two shots of the vaccine, up from the current requirement of one dose. In addition, children ages five to 11 will have to show proof of at least one shot, de Blasio said.
The mayor said he will release more details next week about how the mandate will be enforced.
According to city officials, about 5.9 million adults in New York City have received at least a first dose out of seven million people aged 18 and over. That translates to 84 per cent.
Vaccinations are already required in New York City for hospital and nursing home workers and for city employees, including teachers, police officers and firefighters. A vaccination mandate for employees of private and religious schools was announced last week.
De Blasio, who has indicated he may seek the nomination for governor of New York next year, has sought to portray himself as a national leader in the fight against COVID-19. His other vaccine mandates have largely survived legal challenges, and he has credited the policy with raising vaccination rates among the reluctant.
The new mandate takes effect days before de Blasio leaves office, and Democrat Eric Adams is due to be sworn in. Evan Thies, a spokesperson for Adams, said in a statement that the mayor-elect “will evaluate this mandate and other COVID strategies when he is in office and make determinations based on science, efficacy and the advice of health professionals.”
The Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, which includes some 30,000 businesses big and small, said it supports the tightened measures.
The group’s executive director, Helana Natt, said businesses have been hurting since the pandemic closed restaurants, bars and other places and turned busy spots like Times Square into ghost towns.
“Now things are turning around and we want to make sure that we don’t go backward,” Natt said.
What’s happening across Canada
- Manitoba doctors sound alarm over dwindling ICU capacity.
- Booster bookings now open for N.B. residents 50 and older.
- P.E.I. sees 3 new cases; daycare shuts over positive test.
- N.S. announces 45 new cases, issues several school exposure notices.
- N.L. adds 7 new cases over the weekend, but active cases drop to 13.
- Vaccine appointments postponed in Taloyoak, Nunavut, amid flooding.
What’s happening around the world
As of Monday, more than 265.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a case-tracking database maintained by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.2 million.
In Europe, Italy is making life more uncomfortable for unvaccinated people this holiday season, excluding them from indoor restaurants, theatres and museums starting Monday to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and encourage those who are vaccine hesitant to get their shots.
In Asia, high school seniors are returning to their classrooms in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, for the first time in more than six months as the city eases coronavirus restrictions.
In the Americas, Argentina detected its first case of omicron, in a person who had travelled from South Africa, the Health Ministry said.
In Africa, a Nigerian official on Monday criticized a travel ban imposed on the West African nation by the British government amid fears about the new variant as “punitive, indefensible and discriminatory.”