New York City to require vaccination for indoor activities, restaurants, gyms

New York City will require proof of vaccination for workers and customers who want to participate in indoor activities including dining in restaurants, working out in gyms and attending theater performances, Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioFederal appeals court blocks NYC teacher vaccine mandate Meghan, Prince Harry visit One World Trade Center Google to purchase Manhattan building for .1 billion MORE (D) announced Tuesday.

The policy is one of the first of its kind in the United States and comes amid a nationwide spike in COVID-19 infections, driven largely by the spread of the delta variant in people who are unvaccinated.

The "Key to NYC Pass" program will begin Aug. 16, and enforcement will begin Sept. 13, de Blasio said during a news conference. 

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"It's time for people to see vaccination as literally necessary for living a good, full and healthy life," de Blasio said. "If you're unvaccinated, unfortunately, you will not be able to participate in many things."

While New York City is the first U.S. city to institute a municipal vaccine passport, the state developed its own "Excelsior Pass" mobile app, which debuted in March. 

Private businesses, including sports arenas and concert halls, that wanted to require proof of vaccination could use the app.   

The mayor on Tuesday said there will be multiple ways to show proof of vaccination, including a paper card, the Excelsior Pass and the city's own NYC Covid Safe app, which was unveiled Monday.

While other major cities, including Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles have all recently reimposed mask mandates, de Blasio has expressed a reluctance to require them. 

During the press conference, he insisted the city's focus has to be on vaccination. 

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"Our strategy is vaccine-centric. Anything and everything we do is to support vaccination. Anything less than vaccination isn't going to get us where we need to go," de Blasio said. "What we want to nail is people getting vaccinated, and very bluntly, showing life is much better when you're vaccinated." 

The program is the most aggressive move to date by de Blasio to try to increase the city's vaccination rate. About 66 percent of the city's adults are fully vaccinated, but the rates vary throughout different parts of the city. 

Last week, he offered a $100 incentive to city residents and employees who make an appointment at city-run vaccination sites. On Monday, he mandated that all new city employees get vaccinated as a condition of employment.

De Blasio acknowledged that "not everyone's going to agree with this," but insisted the move is necessary to save lives.

He also defended the legality of the policy, saying the Justice Department has made it clear that mandates are legal even though the vaccines are not yet fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

De Blasio said he thinks the policy will provide a push for younger New Yorkers to get the vaccine, especially service industry employees. He said he hopes similar policies get adopted by private industries and other governments.

"I'm taking this action in part to inspire others to follow suit," de Blasio said.

Updated at 11:20 a.m.