New York City’s strictest-in-the-nation COVID vaccine mandate covering the private sector is officially over as of Tuesday, following last week’s health board vote to drop the nearly year-old program amid ongoing pandemic progress.
The decision to end the order implemented by former Mayor Bill de Blasio in the waning days of his administration was unanimous, as was health leaders’ vote to rescind COVID mandates for high-risk extracurricular activities.
Private employers now have the option to keep the mandate, though it is no longer required by city health ordinance. The COVID mandate for the city’s hundreds of thousands of public workers, though, remains in effect.
Mayor Eric Adams said in late September he had no planned end date for that in mind — a statement with which a chunk of the city’s more than 300,000 employees, including some who work for the FDNY and NYPD, take issue.
The Democrat dropped the vaccine requirement for professional athletes in late March as vaccine controversy surrounded by Nets’ Kyrie Irving, drawing ire from businesses who cried double standard.
Today Mayor Adams lifted the vaccine mandate for private businesses in the boroughs. Rana Novini reports.
It’s not clear how many private-sector employees lost their jobs over the mandate, though, or whether they may not be eligible to get them back now that it’s over. Asked directly about the municipal mandate, which led to the termination of more than 1,500 city employees at the time of his September announcement, Adams said he didn’t have an end date.
Representatives from FDNY and NYPD unions were quick to blast that comment as “arbitrary” and “capricious.”
The latest COVID developments in New York come amid rising wariness over the emergence of new COVID variants, some of which haven’t even been detected in the United States yet, that appear more vaccine-resistant and contagious.
Officials say existing vaccines work on those as well, and encourage those who haven’t yet gotten their bivalent boosters to do so. CDC guidelines also indicate lowering COVID risk for the New York area versus recent months.
As of Tuesday, only seven of the state’s 62 counties (11%) are considered high risk for COVID spread, according to the CDC. Brooklyn and the Bronx are the two New York City boroughs at low COVID risk, while the rest of the state is deemed medium-risk. Low-risk counties are advised merely to follow basic COVID protocol — stay home when sick, wash hands frequently, under CDC guidelines, while vulnerable people in medium-risk counties should mask up.