NYC to mandate proof of vaccination for indoor dining, fitness, entertainment

People enjoy outdoor dining amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Manhattan
People enjoy outdoor dining amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., September 14, 2020.
REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

New York City will begin requiring proof of vaccination to access a wide-ranging set of indoor activities, such as restaurant dining, drinking at a bar, exercising at a gym, or seeing a live performance, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday.

“If you want to participate in our society fully, you’ve got to get vaccinated,” the mayor said at his daily press briefing on Tuesday. “It’s time.”

New York is the first major city in the country to adopt such a move, which the mayor is calling the “Key to NYC Pass.” It comes as the Delta variant upends the progress the city has made in fighting the coronavirus.

Countries such as France and Italy have already adopted the measure; on the first day after French President Emmanuel Macron announced the mandate, millions of people booked appointments.

The new policy will launch on Aug. 16, but won’t be enforced until Sept. 13 so businesses can get acclimated and the city can make adjustments based on feedback.

“We know that a mandated vaccine requirement will pose economic and operational challenges to restaurants, particularly in communities with lower vaccination rates and hesitancy, however it will also alleviate the burden that restaurants and bars face when implementing this policy voluntarily,” said Andrew Rigie, Executive Director of the restaurant trade group NYC Hospitality Alliance, in a statement. “While having to require this requirement is far from ideal, now we need government to support restaurants, bars and workers with clear and fair guidelines, and an extensive outreach and education program, while also implementing more policies to support the industry’s recovery.”

Those wishing to visit indoor establishments like restaurants, bars, gyms, or performance venues will be required to show either their CDC vaccination card, the new NYC COVID Safe app, or the Excelsior Pass app.

“It is very simple, I carry my wallet with me and I pull out my card,” said Congressman Adriano Espaillat at the mayor’s briefing. “It’s as simple as that.”

The mayor has been moving in the direction of mandates in recent weeks, starting last week with a mandate for health care workers and then for all city workers. The city is still using some incentives though, such as an offer of $100 for anyone who gets their first dose at a city-run vaccination site.

Nonetheless, the mayor has faced criticism for inaction on implementing a mask mandate even as Delta, which is far more contagious than the original coronavirus, rages throughout the city.

City Council Member Mark Levine, who has been calling for a new mask mandate for weeks, said that new policy is what’s needed to rapidly take action to prevent a worse outcome over time.

“We have to act to protect this city,” Levine said. “And we’ve learned over the past year and a half that our choice is to act now, or to face more difficult options down the road.”

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