The Queens Chamber of Commerce is expressing its concerns after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city’s new vaccine mandate for private sector employers that has been implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19 and the emerging omicron variant.
The sweeping expansion of the “Key to NYC” program — the first-in-the-nation vaccination mandate for workers and customers at indoor dining, fitness, entertainment and performance venues — will require all New Yorkers aged 12 and older to be required to show proof of two vaccine doses, instead of one, except for those who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“We in New York City have decided to use a preemptive strike to really do something bold to stop the further growth of COVID and the dangers it’s causing to all of us,” de Blasio said. “So as of today we’re going to announce a first-in-the-nation measure: our health commissioner will announce a vaccine mandate for private sector employers across the board.”
The mandate will take effect on Dec. 27, just four days before de Blasio leaves office, and it will apply to roughly 184,000 businesses across the five boroughs, according to City Hall.
“Throughout the pandemic, small businesses have gone above and beyond to keep their customers, employees and communities safe. While we remain concerned about COVID-19, we are also worried about the impact that further restrictions will have on businesses,” Queens Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Grech said. “We hope the administration will work collaboratively with small businesses on vaccine mandates to ensure we are keeping our city safe while allowing our businesses to stay open.”
Children ages 5 to 11 will be required to show proof of at least one dose of the vaccine starting Dec. 14 for activities like indoor dining, fitness and entertainment, according to de Blasio.
“A lot of parents, of course, want to take their kids out to wonderful things that’ll be happening in the holiday season. Here’s a reminder: Get your child vaccinated,” he said.
Currently, only about 20% of New Yorkers in that age group have gotten vaccinated, according to the mayor. The expansion of the vaccine mandate comes in the middle of the holiday season, which bars and restaurants across the five boroughs are counting on after nearly two years of restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said that “given the rapidly approaching holidays and considerable impact of the Dec. 14 deadline, the proposal should be delayed until next year.”
“Public health and safety is paramount, but Mayor de Blasio’s announced expansions to the Key to NYC vaccine mandate pose additional challenges for an already beleaguered restaurant industry in need of tourism support and revenues this holiday season,” Rigie said. “U.S. families visiting New York City for scheduled holiday vacations may not be able to meet the vaccination requirements for children or themselves in time, and children aged 5 to 11 across the globe aren’t universally authorized to get vaccinated.”
The city will announce additional enforcement and “reasonable accommodation” guidance on Dec. 15, along with additional resources to support small businesses with implementation.
“New York City has led the nation when it comes to decisive action on COVID-19,” Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said. “We will have to be more relentless than the virus, and I know that our vaccine policies will save lives and help prevent unnecessary suffering.”
The city has administered more than 12.5 million vaccination doses against COVID-19. Nearly 6.5 million New Yorkers, including 89% of adults, have received at least one dose, according to City Hall.
“New York City will not give a single inch in the fight against COVID-19,” de Blasio said. “From workplace mandates, to $100 incentives, to mobile at-home vaccination offerings, no place in the nation has done more to end the COVID era. And if you have not taken this step yet: there’s no better day than today to stand up for your city.”