Making the rounds on local and national television Tuesday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio sought to defend his decision, and reject criticism, over a beefed up COVID-19 vaccine mandate in New York City requiring all employers have their employees inoculated against the virus.
The mayor described the new vaccine mandates, released on Monday, as a “preemptive attack” as COVID-19 cases rise across the city during the holiday season, and as more activities move indoors. The city’s also attempting to get ahead of the Omicron variant, a new, fast-spreading version of COVID-19 whose potency continues to be the subject of much study by epidemiologists across the globe.
“This is a preemptive strike. This is to get ahead of something that’s now threatening us in a new way,” de Blasio said in an interview on CNN’s New Day on Dec. 7. “You had the winter weather, you had the holiday gatherings, now Omicron. I mea, we’re getting a lot of warnings here. We better be aggressive.”
As of Dec. 27, all private employers in New York City must require that their workforce be vaccinated. The mandate also requires parents to provide proof that their children, between ages 5 and 11, are vaccinated as of Dec. 14.
The employer mandate garnered criticism from business leaders across the city who chastised the mayor for making the decision with little warning or consultation. But de Blasio dismissed those allegations, noting that no one should be surprised at this point by the city taking measures to help combat the spread.
“We’ve talked to business leaders for months about the reality of the Delta variant and the whole reality of COVID,” de Blasio told CNN. “You know what they tell us? One, when the government acts, it makes it easier for them to act. They like to see the government lead the way. … And then, what we also heard from business leaders is, whatever you do, don’t let us go back to a shutdown, don’t go backwards.”
Later, in an interview with PIX-11, de Blasio remarked that he wasn’t concerned if any legal attempts are made to block the mandate from taking effect. He noted that the city previously battled, and won, several lawsuits seeking to block various mandates.
“We had legal battles when we said for the teachers, for the health care workers, for the firefighters,” de Blasio said. “Every time there was a legal battle, and every single state and federal court decision went our way.”
Questions remain over whether the outgoing mayor’s new mandates will be upheld by Mayor-elect Eric Adams, who takes office Jan. 1. Evan Thies, an Adams spokesperson, indicated the new mayor would “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.”
Pressed about the noncommittal response from Adams, de Blasio denied that there was a rift between him and Adams over COVID public policy.
“I’ve had great conversations with the mayor-elect. What he always says is, he’s going to listen to the health leadership,” de Blasio said on CNN. “I think the mayor-elect has been consistent. He will follow the ideas and concerns of the health leadership.”
Asked by PIX-11 Tuesday morning about whether the uptick in COVID-19 cases would put a damper on the planned New Year’s Eve party in Times Square, de Blasio said no — adding that all preparations are moving “full speed ahead at this moment.” Still, he acknowledged that could change if the data and the science dictate otherwise.
“We’re going to look at the data and the science. We’re going to make decisions that way,” he added. “At this moment, our health care leadership feels good about what we’re doing in Times Square. It is outdoors, everyone must be vaccinated. And, of course, we’re going to encourage mask use as well. So we feel good at this moment. But we’re going to keep watching this situation as we get closer.”