New York City announces vaccine mandate for indoor activities

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday what is believed to be the first government-issued mandate in the United States requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for people taking part in indoor activities in the city.

Workers and customers of indoor restaurants, gyms and entertainment and performance venues will require patrons to show a vaccination card or a city or state vaccination “pass” or they will be denied entry.

“This is crucial because we know this will encourage a lot more vaccinations,” de Blasio said during a news briefing Tuesday. “We know this is what’s going to turn the tide.”

The programme, which is called The Key to NYC Pass, will be rolled out this month and enforcement will begin on September 13. It is modelled after vaccine passport programmes in some European countries such as France, de Blasio administration officials told the New York Post.

On Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged businesses throughout the state to turn away unvaccinated customers but stopped short of issuing a statewide mandate.

“If you are unvaccinated, the Delta variant should be a major concern to you and you should be worried about it,” Cuomo said.

Last month, de Blasio said his city will require all of its municipal workers – including teachers and police officers – to get coronavirus vaccines by September 13 or face weekly COVID-19 testing.

And last week, US President Joe Biden announced that all civilian federal workers will need to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or face regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and travel limits. The federal requirement followed similar requirements for state workers put into place by Cuomo and Gavin Newsom, the governor of California.

These government mandates and requirements come as major US businesses are implementing their own vaccine mandates for workers and mask mandates for customers.

Delta variant worries

New York City’s new programme comes as concern grows over the surge in cases due to the highly contagious Delta variant.

Nationwide as of Saturday, there were about 72,000 new cases per day of COVID-19, a 44 percent increase over the previous week and higher than the peak set in the summer of 2020, said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr Rochelle Walensky on Monday.

Hospital admissions had increased 41 percent and deaths had increased to 300 per day, a 25 percent jump, she said.

Amid the rise in cases, there has been an increase in vaccinations after weeks of decreasing numbers.

White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said Monday that over the past few weeks there has been a nearly 70 percent increase in the average number of new people being vaccinated every day. Three million Americans had received their first shot in the last seven days, and the country reached a milestone on Monday of 70 percent of adults having at least one vaccine shot.

But, he added, “There are still about 90 million eligible Americans who are unvaccinated, and we need them to do their part.”

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