WASHINGTON - New York City is imposing a coronavirus vaccine mandate on all its private employers starting December 27, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday, in an edict that will affect thousands of workers and would be the most sweeping yet to take effect in the United States. The move comes with less than a month to go before his mayoral term ends.
De Blasio told MSNBC that his order was necessary as a preemptive move against the virus, with the New York City area already identifying seven cases of the new and highly transmissible omicron variant. The mandate will affect about 184,000 businesses.
"We've got omicron as a new factor. We've got the colder weather, which is really going to create additional challenges with the delta variant. We've got holiday gatherings," de Blasio told the news network. "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 dangers it's causing to all of us."
COVID-19 cases are increasing in New York, with the city health department reporting more than 1,500 new cases daily on average.
"New York City will not give a single inch in the fight against COVID-19. Vaccination is the way out of this pandemic," de Blasio said in a separate statement.
The mayor said the city will also require proof of vaccination for children ages 5 to 11 for indoor dining, entertainment and fitness establishments. Last week, he imposed a December 20 vaccine mandate on Jewish yeshivas, Catholic schools and other private educational institutions in the city, affecting about 930 schools that have 56,000 employees.
It was not immediately clear how the biggest U.S. city plans to enforce the new private worker or school mandates, a task that will almost entirely fall to incoming mayor Eric Adams, a former city police officer who takes office on New Year's Day.
But de Blasio voiced optimism about compliance.
"We are going to work with the business community," he told MSNBC. "We've seen a lot of cooperation so far when we put in place our mandate, for example, for restaurants, indoor entertainment, indoor fitness; we actually got a lot of cooperation. There were a few times where we had to penalize people, but it was rare."
U.S. President Joe Biden has imposed a vaccine mandate on U.S. businesses with 100 employees or more. The mandate affects 84 million workers and is set to take effect January 4.
The Democratic president's order, however, is mired in court challenges from Republican state governors who oppose vaccine mandates as an overreach in the national government's authority and an intrusion on the individual freedom of Americans.
One federal appellate court ruling blocked Biden's mandate, but more challenges remain, and the issue could eventually end up at the Supreme Court for a final decision.
Biden also imposed a vaccine mandate on 4 million U.S. military personnel and civilian workers in the federal government.
The majority have complied, but even the small percentage who have not still leaves tens of thousands of government-paid personnel unvaccinated.
The government is in the early stages of enforcing the rule, which could lead to the firing of federal workers or dismissal from the military, actions the government has largely delayed to the early weeks of 2022. Federal officials are also in the process of considering requests for medical and religious exemptions from the mandates.