What to Know
- NYC's new private-sector vaccine mandate took effect Monday, requiring nearly 185,000 businesses to track vaccine proof for employees; in tandem, everyone aged 12 and up must show proof of full vaccination for indoor dining, fitness and entertainment
- The changes were intended as a combined preemptive strike against an omicron variant generating record COVID case surges locally and across the country; cases are milder than those linked to delta
- Still, the sheer volume of infections alone could decimate workforces; the CDC has recommended a shortened isolation window for people who have had boosters; NY has already modified its quarantine period
New York City's expanded and strictest-in-the-nation vaccine mandate has taken effect amid a rapid, ongoing surge in omicron variant-fueled COVID infections, but one particular question has affected businesses curious: Will it last past this week?
Mayor-elect Eric Adams has repeatedly been asked if he'll keep the mandate in its current form when he is sworn in on Saturday. He has repeatedly said he reserves the right to assess the situation with his own health team once in office and will make a decision that protects the interests of both public health and the economy.
The former Brooklyn borough president and Mayor Bill de Blasio have been in frequent contact as part of the transition of power in this uniquely critical time. De Blasio has said he believes Adams will continue the private-sector mandate but that he respects whatever decision Adams ends up making when he takes office.
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Adams has said he's concerned about how the private-sector vaccine rules will affect small businesses, many of whom may not have the staffing resources to accommodate any absences over non-compliance. The rules also call for detailed documentation of vaccine proof and follow-up on second dose appointments for businesses, adding another complex administrative layer for management.
For de Blasio, the controversy boils down to a singularly crucial point: The best thing for businesses is to end the pandemic. Vaccination is the way to do it.
"I am 110% convinced this was the right thing to do, remains the right thing to do, particularly with the ferocity of omicron," the mayor said of the mandate on Monday. "I don't know if there's going to be another variant behind it, but I do know our best defense is to get everyone vaccinated and mandates have worked."
See the most frequently asked questions and answers on the mandate here.
About 83% of New York City adults are fully vaccinated, but that higher-than-national-average rate has not been sufficient to slow the spread of omicron, which has led to more breakthrough but milder overall infections than earlier strains.
The rolling new case average is up 117% over the averages for the prior four weeks. COVID hospitalizations are up 49% by the same parameters, though remain manageable from a patient perspective at this point.
More clarity around the mandate transition could come as soon as this weekend when Adams officially takes office. Tuesday's focus was on New York City schools, which announced intensified COVID protocol starting Monday after the state released alarming numbers around COVID hospitalizations and children in the city.
Statewide, hospitalizations topped 6,100 for the first time since mid-February on Tuesday, a 12% increase in the last day and a 220% increase since Nov. 1 alone.
The vast majority of those more severe COVID cases are unvaccinated -- and rates of increase among unvaccinated children, especially those in the city, have officials at all levels of New York government concerned. Pediatric COVID hospitalizations in the state have doubled in the last three weeks but quadrupled across the five boroughs, State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said Monday.
Among the 5-to-11-year-olds in the hospitalized group, none had been vaccinated, Bassett noted. About 16% of kids in that age group statewide are fully vaccinated.
To boost the number of vaccinated kids, New York City earlier this month required kids aged 5 to 11 to show proof of one vaccine dose to eat indoors or enter other indoor venues, like movie theaters, gyms or arenas. Monday's mandate toughened that rule to require everyone age 12 and older to show proof of two doses.
The city has also been encouraging more New Yorkers to receive their booster doses, which data shows multiplies protection against COVID significantly, especially as it relates to omicron. The $100 incentive offer expires Friday.
Another benefit of getting the booster shot? You can skip quarantine if you wear masks in all settings for at least 10 days, the CDC announced Monday in its latest update to federal COVID-19 guidance. Non-boosted people can stop quarantining after five days if they wear masks in all settings for another five days.
The new CDC guidance is not a mandate; it’s a recommendation to employers and state and local officials. Hochul had already announced essential workers can shorten their quarantine window from 10 to five days if fully vaccinated and asymptomatic, or fully vaccinated and fever-free for at least 72 hours. See details.