New York City residents wanting to eat inside at restaurants, work out in the gym or do a number of other indoor activities will now have to show proof of vaccination.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Tuesday the city would now require proof of vaccination for the indoor activities through either the city's COVID safe app, the state's Excelsior app, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention paper card issued at vaccination sites.
The program will start begin on August 16 and will be enforced from September 13.
"If you don't get vaccinated, you're going to get left out of a lot of things," de Blasio said of the program, which comes as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the city due to the highly transmissible Delta variant.
"It's time for people to see vaccination as literally necessary to living a good and full and healthy life."
He said the new Key to NYC Pass would be a first-in-the-nation approach and would require vaccination for workers and customers in indoor dining, in indoor fitness facilities and indoor entertainment facilities.
"This is going to be a requirement. The only way to patronize these establishments indoors will be if you're vaccinated, at least one dose."
Oversight officers from the Health Department and other agencies will monitor compliance, Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said. The aim is to give people — particularly younger New Yorkers — more impetus to get vaccinated.
NYC Hospitality Alliance Executive Director Andrew Rigie tweeted his support, saying although the mandate was a "very difficult step," it could ultimately be an essential move to protect public health and ensure restaurants don't have to go through further closures.
He added that requirement could 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.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who has been pressing for tougher public health measures over recent weeks including a reinstatement of the mask mandate, supported the mayor's move and said vaccination screens for a wide range of activities and spaces were one of the best ways to both encourage more New Yorkers to get vaccinated and limit the spread of the Delta variant.
"I also believe that vaccine requirements and mask requirements are not mutually exclusive - masks will help us to keep case rates down as vaccination rates go up, and requiring masks indoors for a limited period, regardless of vaccination status, is a critical part of protecting our city amid the current surge."
Some Brooklyn establishments are enforcing their own vaccination rules ahead of the September 13 date. Bushwick's Café Erzulie released a statement today saying that it would be requiring all customers to show proof of vaccination for its events or supply a negative PCR test starting August 7.
"We are choosing to instate this policy to create a safe and comfortable environment at our events during this complicated time," the café said in a statement on Instagram.
"We understand that vaccination requirements bring up questions of accessibility and inclusivity, but feel strongly that more than anything else, safety for our audience and community takes priority."
A number of people commented on the post raising the issue of the virus' transmissibility, even amongst vaccinated people. However, the café — like the city — has not said it will make masks a requirement.
The City has also not made clear how the mandate will apply to children under 12 who cannot be vaccinated, with de Blasio saying details will be worked out in the coming weeks. He added that children between the ages of 5 and 11 could be eligible for vaccination as soon as September.
"Not everyone's going to agree with this, I understand that," de Blasio said.
"But, for so many people, this is going to be the lifesaving act — that we're putting a mandate in place, it's going to guarantee a much higher level of vaccination in this city, and that is the key to protecting people and the key to our recovery."