Tuesday, March 21, 2023|
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A man walks off a vaccination bus at a NYC vaccine clinic Monday in Midtown Manhattan. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
NEW YORK — From big Wall Street banks to corner grocery stores, all private employers in New York City will have to require their workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the mayor announced Monday in the most sweeping vaccine mandate of any state or big city in the U.S.
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 the nation’s largest city and elsewhere around the country.
“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,” he said.
De Blasio, a Democrat with just weeks left in office, said the mandate will take effect Dec. 27, with in-person workers needing to provide proof they have received at least one dose of the vaccine. And they will not be allowed to get out of the requirement by agreeing to regular COVID-19 testing instead.
The measure will apply to roughly 184,000 businesses not covered by previous vaccine mandates, ranging from multinational corporations to mom-and-pop businesses in the city of 8.8 million people, according to a spokesperson for the mayor. The city’s private-sector workforce is 3.7 million.
Also, 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, the mayor said. And children 5 to 11 will have to show proof of at least one shot.
De Blasio said the moves are aimed at staving off a spike of infections amid holiday gatherings and the cold weather, which drives more people indoors, where the virus can spread more easily.
Phil Penta, who runs a specialty grocery store called Three Guys from Brooklyn, said the impending mandate could put him in a bind by forcing him to fire valued employees who are holding out against the vaccine.
“Everybody wants to do the right thing, but the right thing is different for everybody,” said Penta, who said the vast majority of his roughly three dozen employees have been vaccinated. He added: “I respect the right to say they don’t want to take it.”
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.
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