The New York City vaccination mandate for private businesses went into effect on Dec. 27 as the surge in the Omicron variant intensified.
The city’s expanded vaccine mandate, as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Key to NYC program, is the strictest in the nation. It defines only individuals with at least two doses of a mRNA vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson to be “fully vaccinated.”
De Blasio first announced the mandate expansion on Dec. 6, four days after NY State authorities reported the state’s first case of Omicron.
According to de Blasio, NYC has seen tens of thousands of new cases each day, with more than 14,000 positive cases on Dec. 26 alone.
The mayor said earlier this month that employees of 184,000 private businesses would need to submit proof of at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot.
“We’re implementing the strongest vaccine mandate in the country,” said de Blasio on MSNBC.
“This is what we need to do everywhere. Every mayor, every governor, every CEO in America should do vaccine mandates now. 2022 has to be the year we leave COVID behind.”
All employers will have to keep full records of their workers’ vaccination status. Those who do not comply face fines starting from $1,000.
Employees who have only gotten one shot are required to get a second one within 45 days.
Companies must display a sign affirming that they are complying with the rule “in a conspicuous location.”
The new rules cover private places where work is performed in contact with other persons, which includes not only stores, but offices and taxis.
Businesses are not required to discipline or fire non-compliant workers including contractors. But they are required to ban these workers from entering the work place.
Employees seeking a religious exemption are still allowed to come to work while their requests are pending.
Vaccinations have already been mandated for health care workers and city employees, including teachers, police officers and firefighters, which has contributed to the shortage of essential workers.
The city is also requiring proof of full vaccination for people older than 12 at entertainment, fitness, and indoor dining venues, while children ages 5-11 need to show proof of one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
An acceptable proof of vaccination includes the CDC vaccination card, or the New York State Excelsior pass.
Mayor-elect Eric Adams, who takes office on Jan. 1, has said that he is evaluating the mandate for private sector employees, amid backlash from the restaurant industry and other.
He has yet to declare if his administration will keep the mandates in place when in office.