- New York Mayor Bill De Blasio said on Tuesday that proof of vaccinations will be required of both workers and customers for indoor dining as part of the city's "Key to NYC Pass." To enter a restaurant, diners must use the city's new digital app (NYC COVID Safe App), New York's Excelsior app or a paper card to show proof of vaccination.
- The mandate, which also applies to indoor fitness, entertainment and performance venues, will take effect Aug. 16 and will be enforced beginning Sept. 13. The city will seek feedback and input from businesses before finalizing the policy over the next few weeks, De Blasio said.
- The announcement comes a day after De Blasio said he would not mandate face masks indoors, stating that he wanted to focus on promoting vaccinations, but highly recommended people wear them. On Monday, he also issued an executive order mandating new city employees to show proof of vaccination.
While municipalities like Los Angeles County, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., have reinstated indoor mask mandates, New York City becomes the first major city to mandate vaccinations to dine indoors.
Fifty-five percent of New York City residents of all ages are fully vaccinated as of Aug. 3, but COVID-19 cases have been rising since July. Healthcare experts said during the Tuesday broadcast that the delta variant is two times as infectious and contagious as the earlier strains of the COVID-19 virus.
"We think it is so important to make clear that if you are vaccinated, you get to benefit in all sorts of ways. You get to live a better life. Besides your health in general, you get to participate in many, many things. And if you're unvaccinated, [there are] going to be fewer and fewer things that you're able to do," De Blasio said during an interview with Inside City Hall on Monday.
On Friday, New York City began offering a $100 incentive to New Yorkers who receive a vaccination. And by Monday, 11,000 residents claimed the incentive with their first vaccination, De Blasio said on Tuesday. At least 5 million New Yorkers have had at least one vaccine, De Blasio said.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also on Monday encouraged private businesses, like bars and restaurants, to require vaccinations in order for patrons to enter. As of Tuesday, over 30 New York City restaurants and bars, including Union Square Hospitality Group, said they are or will require proof of vaccinations, according to Eater New York.
While a number restaurants have been willing to add this mandate for indoor dining, not all consumers may act positively to this requirement. Less than one quarter of consumers support indoor dining vaccine mandates, according to a Gartner survey. That could put additional pressure on restaurant employees, many of whom have already been experiencing an increase in harassment from customers.
"Now, without training, our staff members are expected to check the vaccine status of every customer wanting to eat inside the establishment. Last year when mask mandates across the country were put in place, restaurant workers suffered terrifying backlash when enforcing those rules," Larry Lynch, senior vice president of science and industry for the National Restaurant Association, said in a statement responding to New York City's mandate. "The Association's ServSafe experts had to go so far as to create a Conflict De-escalation training module to support those front-of-house workers dealing with customer push-back. We hope that the city will take this into consideration and will work with us to ensure there is clear guidance and support for our workforce."
At the end of last year, 78% of workers said they saw or experienced hostile behavior from customers when enforcing COVID-19 protocols. At the same time, 55% of restaurants workers reported they are thinking of leaving their jobs because of COVID-19 safety concerns, so requiring vaccines could help improve retention rates across restaurants.
"Not everyone [is going] to agree with this; I understand that. But for so many people, this is going to be the life-saving act that we're putting a mandate in place," De Blasio said. "It's going to guarantee a much higher level of vaccination in this city ... If you want to participate in our society fully, you [have] got to get vaccinated."