NYC mandates COVID vaccine proof to enter indoor restaurants, venues, gyms

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NEW YORK — New Yorkers will need to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter indoor businesses such as restaurants, entertainment venues and gyms, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.

To gain entry to these establishments, New Yorkers and visitors to the city will have to either present their paper COVID-19 vaccination card, the state-run Excelsior Pass or the city’s vaccine passport app.

The program, called “Key to NYC Pass,” will be rolled out beginning on Aug. 16 and enforcement by the city will start on Sept. 13, de Blasio said.

“This is crucial because we know it will encourage a lot more vaccinations,” de Blasio said. “If we’re going to stop the delta variant, the time is now.”

New York City will be the first big city in the country to implement such a requirement. The policy is similar to mandates issued in France and Italy.

“We have to do something different if we want to make an impact,” de Blasio said.

Further details on the policy will be finalized in the coming weeks that will clarify if the new mandate will affect those who are unable to get vaccinated, including kids under 12. Currently, the focus is on those who can be vaccinated, according to the mayor.

“If you want to do any of these wonderful activities indoors, go get vaccinated, at least one dose. If you’re not willing to get vaccinated, then you’re not going to be participating in either the work or the enjoyment of all these places,” the mayor said.

Watch the mayor’s announcement in the video player below.

The restriction is de Blasio’s latest attempt to curb a startling spike in COVID-19 cases linked to the delta variant after the mayor refused to implement an indoor mask mandate for vaccinated and unvaccinated New Yorkers on Monday, despite Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations to do so.

During a COVID briefing Monday morning, de Blasio said he “strongly recommends” fully vaccinated New Yorkers wear a mask indoors, especially around unvaccinated individuals, but stopped short of a mandate in public spaces.

The recommendation was based on science, data and strategy, according to de Blasio. A mandate was not issued because the city’s vaccination rate offers different opportunities, the mayor had said.

“Mask wearing is not a substitute for vaccinations,” de Blasio had added.

As of Tuesday morning, about 66% of adults in New York City were fully vaccinated, according to official data.

New York City Councilman Mark Levine, who joined de Blasio during his briefing, said millions of New Yorkers are still vulnerable to the delta variant.

“Despite our enormous progress in vaccination about 45% of residents of New York City are not yet fully vaccinated and that is enough for this virus to spread,” Levine said.

Executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance Andrew Rigie responded to the mayor’s vaccine announcement, calling it a difficult step, but something that may ultimately prove essential to protecting public health.

“Mandating vaccine requirements for restaurant and bar employees and customers to work and dine indoors is a very difficult step, but ultimately may prove an essential move to protecting public health and ensuring that New York City does not revert to restrictions and shut down orders that would again absolutely devastate small businesses that have not yet recovered from the pandemic. We know that a mandated vaccine requirement will pose economic and operational challenges to restaurants, particularly in communities with lower vaccination rates and hesitancy, however it will also alleviate the burden that restaurants and bars face when implementing this policy voluntarily. While having to require this requirement is far from ideal, now we need government to support restaurants, bars and workers with clear and fair guidelines, and an extensive outreach and education program, while also implementing more policies to support the industry’s recovery,” he said in a statement.

At Ann & Tony’s on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx — where they’ve been for five generations — they’re concerned about additional impacts on the restaurant industry if anyone decides to stay home.

“We have lost business already. Now, to lose even more revenue, it’s disgusting and I hate it. We were closed eight months total between the two different — times they closed us all down,” Anthony Napolitano said of his business.

Last week, the mayor announced a vaccine or weekly testing mandate for all City of New York employees. On Monday, he went a step further and mandated all new city workers provide proof of COVID vaccination before their first day on the job. The city will not offer a weekly testing option for new employees, he said.

The city also began offering a $100 incentive to residents who get inoculated.

This story comprises reporting from The Associated Press.

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