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Diners at a restaurant in New York

Customers have lunch at a restaurant on April 28, 2021 in New York City. (Photo: Liao Pan/China News Service via Getty Images)

NYC to Become First US City to Mandate Proof of Vaccination for Certain Indoor Activities

New Yorkers will need to show proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, gyms, and theaters starting next month.

Julia Conley

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that the city will soon require proof of vaccination against Covid-19 for patrons of restaurants, gyms, and other indoor spaces.

The rule will go into enforcement in mid-September after a transition period starting August 16, in which the public and the owners of restaurants, gyms, and theaters will be educated about the mandate.

Under the policy—called "Key to NYC Pass"—people who are eligible for vaccines will need to present their vaccination card showing they've had at least one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the full dose of Johnson & Johnson's shot. 

“If you want to participate in our society fully, you've got to get vaccinated," de Blasio said, framing the program as an effort to encourage New Yorkers to be inoculated against the virus, which has killed more than 33,000 people in the city. Positivity rates, hospitalizations, and deaths from Covid-19 have all been increasing in the last week.

According to a survey taken in June by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 40% of Americans who are hesitant to get vaccinated—but not adamant that they won't be—said that vaccine requirements for participating in large public gatherings could persuade them to sign up for a shot. Offers of cash in exchange for being inoculated, which de Blasio has tried previously, would only sway 14% of persuadable people, according to the poll.

Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician at Brown University, shared on Twitter anecdotal evidence that mandates encourage people to get vaccinated.

Numerous studies have shown that the vaccines which have been approved for emergency use in the U.S. are effective at providing immunity to Covid-19 and preventing symptomatic and severe disease when a patient contracts the highly contagious Delta variant. 

About two-thirds of New Yorkers are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 so far, and the mayor also recently announced that city employees would be required to get their vaccines or face weekly testing. 

Republicans and right-wing TV personalities have railed against vaccine mandates or "passports" allowing only vaccinated people to participate in certain activities, but de Blasio said Tuesday that the city had shared its plans with the U.S. Department of Justice and had learned there are no legal issues with mandating a vaccine to protect public safety. 

While groups including the ACLU have put forth civil liberties, privacy, and equity concerns about "vaccine passports," The New Republic's Matt Ford wrote last week about a U.S. Supreme Court decision at the turn of the 20th century which found that "mandatory vaccination, especially in an age of plagues and pandemics, fell well within" any community's right "to regulate its own health, safety, and general welfare":

We should note that mandatory vaccination doesn't mean forcible vaccination. Biden won't be sending troops door-to-door with those tranquilizer guns from Jurassic Park to shoot vaccine-laden darts into unsuspecting civilians. What it does mean is that those who refuse to get the vaccine despite a mandate will face certain consequences for it, such as regular Covid testing or denial of entry into certain places. 

[...]

Such is the nature of living in civilization.

After de Blasio's announcement Tuesday, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said she would consider implementing a similar measure and public health officials in San Francisco said they may expand the city's current vaccine mandate, which applies only to high-risk workers.


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