New York City will require workers and patrons at indoor businesses to show proof of vaccination starting on Sept. 13, becoming the first major U.S. city to take such action amid a surge of new cases nationwide driven by the highly transmissible delta variant.
The new mandate announced Tuesday, dubbed the "Key to NYC Pass," will apply to indoor dining, gyms and entertainment venues.
"The Key to New York City. When you hear those words, I want you to imagine the notion that because someone's vaccinated they can do all the amazing things that are available in this city," said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
"But if you're unvaccinated, unfortunately, you will not be able to participate in many things," he added.
City officials plan to spend the next few weeks soliciting feedback on the policy before launching it on Aug. 16. They will then educate businesses and the public about the new requirement before starting to enforce it come Sept. 13.
People will be able to confirm they are vaccinated by showing their vaccine card. New Yorkers will also be able to show proof of inoculation using the city's NYC COVID SAFE App or New York state's Excelsior Pass.
De Blasio said he's confident the new mandate is legal even though the Food and Drug Administration has only granted emergency use authorization for three COVID-19 vaccines but not full approval. "We got a very clear message from the U.S. Department of Justice that it was appropriate to move forward with these kinds of standards based on the existing approval," he said.
City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said the city would take into consideration how the policy would affect children under age 12 who are not yet approved for the vaccine. "As with any policy of this type, there will have to be some reasonable accommodations made, and so that will be part of the discussion there," Chokshi added.
De Blasio was joined during the virtual announcement by several business owners who applauded his decision to require vaccination among customers and staff.
"Many businesses cannot afford to live through another shutdown. So this is a good option for us," said Tren'ness Woods-Black of Sylvia's Restaurant in Harlem. "I know that folks feel a little way when it's mandated to take the vaccine, but it is a matter of life and death."
The city previously mandated that all municipal workers get vaccinated or submit to weekly coronavirus testing.