Speaking to New Yorkers in one of his final press conferences Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio and a panel of experts and guest speakers addressed the burgeoning threat of the Omicron variant of COVID, and the new private business vaccine mandate.
As of Monday, according to speaker Dr. Ted Long, there have been 296 new COVID-related hospital admissions and 17,334 newly reported cases of the virus. Additionally 13,101,389 vaccination doses have been administered.
De Blasio also addressed a private sector vaccine mandate that took effect Monday, which requires employees at private businesses in all boroughs to show proof of vaccination in order to work. New York City is the first major city in the nation to implement such a mandate, with de Blasio commenting that he hopes other cities will follow suit.
Businesses that do not adhere to the mandate will be penalized with a $1,000 fine per infraction or non compliance. The mandate also allows for employees to file for “reasonable accommodations” if they believe they should be exempted from the vaccine requirement.
“COVID-19 is obviously bad for humans, but it is also bad for business,” said de Blasio. “This [mandate] will help us win the smoldering fight against a deadly disease.”
However, it remains unclear whether or not incoming Mayor-elect Eric Adams will continue this initiative.
When questioned, Mayor de Blasio remarked that while he hoped the mandate would remain in place, it was up to Adams whether or not to continue to enforce it, but that they had had conversations regarding the topic, as well as the mayoral transition itself.
Another panelist, Dr. Irwin Redlener spoke to the importance of widespread vaccination.
“I was visiting a hospital in New York City the other day and every single bed on the COVID floor was taken,” said Redlener. “There were also COVID patients in the ICU – a lot of them. Of the patients in the ICU, 100% of them were unvaccinated (…) so I think this mandate is absolutely the right thing to do.”
Mayor de Blasio also announced that for individuals 12 and older, a two-dose vaccine requirement is now in place in order to enter restaurants or to participate in other indoor activities. Booster shots are available for all adults who have received both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago as well as for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The $100 booster incentive initiative introduced by the Mayor on Dec 21 continues until the end of this week.
“These mandates work,” said de Blasio. “And we can use them to end this COVID-era we have been living through.”