State Watch

New York mayor announces vaccine mandate for private-sector employers

Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced on Monday that New York City is implementing a vaccine mandate for private-sector employers.

De Blasio said the mandate, which is scheduled to take effect on Dec. 27, is a "preemptive strike" the city is taking to stop the "further growth" of COVID-19 as the weather gets colder, people start gathering for the holidays and more information emerges regarding the new omicron variant.

"We've got omicron as a new factor; we've got the colder weather, which is going to really create additional challenges with the delta variant; we've got holiday gatherings. 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 danger it's causing to all of us," de Blasio said during an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

"So as of today we're going to announce a first in the nation measure: Our health commissioner will announce a vaccine mandate for private-sector employers across the board. All private-sector employers in New York City will be covered by this vaccine mandate as of Dec. 27," he added.

The inoculation requirement for private-sector employers is an expansion to the city's already-existing vaccine mandate, which currently applies to all city employees.

De Blasio also announced that starting Dec. 14 children ages 5-11 will have to show proof of vaccination to dine indoors and enter fitness and entertainment facilities. People ages 12 and older had already been required to show proof of vaccination in order to participate in indoor dining, indoor fitness and indoor entertainment, according to the city's "Key to NYC" initiative.

Additionally, de Blasio on Monday announced that proof of vaccination for adults will require two shots, and not just one. That policy change will take effect on Dec. 27.

The mayor said the new measures are meant to "really focus on maximizing vaccination quickly so we can get ahead of omicron and all the other challenges we're facing right now with COVID."

The new policies come just days after New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), at a press conference alongside de Blasio, announced that five cases of the COVID-19 omicron variant had been detected in the state.

Four of the cases were identified in New York City, and one was found in Suffolk County.

Health experts worldwide are working to gather more information on the omicron variant, which was first detected in southern Africa and has a high number of mutations.

Officials are interested in learning about the transmissibility and severity of the strain, in addition to how well existing COVID-19 vaccines will protect against the new variant.

Seventy percent of New York City residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data on the city's website. More than 77 percent are at least partially vaccinated.

De Blasio, in a tweet on Monday, said the city has "proven that with vaccine mandates and incentives, we can beat this virus."

The mayor revealed in October that after rolling out a vaccine mandate for health and education workers the month before, the fully vaccinated rates for the two industries were 95 percent and 96 percent, respectively.

"NYC is a global leader when it comes to #COVID19 recovery. We've proven that with vaccine mandates and incentives, we can beat this virus," de Blasio wrote on Twitter.

"Now we're taking another step towards the future - a private sector employee vaccine mandate. Together we can save lives and move forward," he added.

--Updated at 9:26 a.m.