New York Exempts Performers, Athletes From COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in Maryland. He covers U.S. and world news.
March 24, 2022Updated: March 24, 2022

New York has exempted all performers and athletes from its private business COVID-19 vaccine mandate, but is continuing to force all other workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, announced the carveout on March 24 at CitiField ahead of the New York Mets’ opening day.

Adams’s predecessor, Bill de Blasio, imposed a raft of COVID-related mandates in 2021, including a private business COVID-19 vaccine mandate that contained an exemption for athletes and performers who were visiting the city, but not those who played for home teams.

Adams said he wanted to change the requirement after taking office on Jan. 1, but was told by health advisers to wait until COVID-19 cases were at a lower level. Cases are now at levels not seen since July 2021.

New York “is a low-risk environment” right now, “so today we take another step in the city’s economic recovery,” he said. “This is about putting New York City-based performers on a level playing field.”

The mayor didn’t cite any studies or real-world data to support the alteration. He has said mandates prevent the city from shutting down again, but the COVID-19 vaccines provide little protection against infection following the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving had been unable to play during home games during this season because of the mandate, as he has declined to get a COVID-19 vaccine. He’ll be able to play in the next home game, which is on March 27 against the Charlotte Hornets.

Some Mets and New York Yankees players were also poised to be unable to play if the mandate hadn’t been changed by April 7, Major League Baseball’s opening day.

Adams said the move affected “a small number of people” including “struggling singers.”

During the briefing, Randy Levine, president of the Yankees, praised Adams for rolling back the mandate, calling it a “courageous decision.” Chloe Smith, event manager for King’s Theater, said the expansion of the exemptions would benefit the theater and its employees.

Under the altered rules, all workers not deemed performers or athletes must continue to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination to employers to keep their jobs. A separate rule that requires city workers to prove that they’ve been vaccinated also remains in effect.

“It definitely doesn’t make sense to me at all,” Harry Nespoli, president of the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association and chair of the Municipal Labor Committee, two local unions, told The Epoch Times.

Nespoli is calling on Adams and his administration to work to hire back all of the workers who lost their jobs because of the mandates.

“I have no problem as far as these people playing ball, but you can’t forget about the city workers, the average Joe that goes to work every single day, that gets on the train or drives into the city to do their job that they were doing for, like, 15 years, 11 years, 12 years, and then terminated because of the shot,” Nespoli said.

New York has fired about 1,400 workers because of their refusal to get a vaccine, including about 125 workers from the sanitation union.

Adams said his message to fired workers was that “we had an urgent, emergency pandemic.” He praised de Blasio for his mandates. He said the city wouldn’t rehire the terminated workers at this time.