Health and Science

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will mandate Covid vaccines for certain indoor activities

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Key Points
  • The order goes into effect Aug. 16, with full enforcement beginning Sept. 13.
  • De Blasio said the mandate, known as the Key to NYC Pass, would encourage increased immunizations to combat the spread of the delta coronavirus variant.
  • The mayor's order comes just a day after de Blasio mandated vaccinations for all of the city's new hires.
A person walks outside Aladdin at the New Amsterdam Theatre in Times Square on June 08, 2021 in New York City.
Noam Galai | Getty Images

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio mandated inoculations for a range of indoor venues at a news conference Tuesday morning, requiring proof of Covid vaccinations from employees and customers of indoor eateries, gyms and entertainment centers.

The order goes into effect Aug. 16, with full enforcement beginning Sept. 13. De Blasio said the mandate, known as the Key to NYC Pass, would encourage increased immunizations to combat the spread of the delta coronavirus variant.

"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," de Blasio said of the Key to NYC Pass.

De Blasio added that the city would begin inspecting businesses for compliance in mid-September. All affected customers and workers can either provide their vaccination cards or upload their proof of vaccination to the Excelsior Pass application.

New York City is thought to be the first in the nation to implement such a mandate. President Joe Biden responded affirmatively when asked at a press conference Tuesday afternoon if he believed other cities should follow suit, but stakeholders across the food industry have raised concerns about how the program will work.

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Shortly after de Blasio's press conference, the National Restaurant Association expressed support for increased vaccinations. But the organization, which says it represents almost 500,000 food service establishments, said the mandate would be burdensome to enforce and result in "significant changes" for restaurants moving forward.

"Checking vaccination status isn't like ID-ing a customer before serving them a drink—staff receive training on how to do that," Larry Lynch, the group's senior vice president of science and industry, said in a statement. "Now, without training, our staff members are expected to check the vaccine status of every customer wanting to eat inside the establishment."

Tilman Fertitta, the billionaire Chairman and CEO of Landry's, which operates several restaurants in New York City, echoed Lynch's statement in an interview Tuesday with CNBC's Power Lunch. The Houston Rockets owner and supporter of former President Trump endorsed the use of vaccines but said he wanted to prevent his restaurants from being the "vaccination police" for customers.

"They should not have told us what we're doing until they laid out how we were going to do it," Fertitta said.

The New York City Hospitality Alliance also raised concerns about the mandate in a statement released Tuesday. The alliance acknowledged that the new measure would be a "difficult step and controversial," but added that it could help forestall "new occupancy restrictions and shut down orders that will again devastate small businesses and workers who have not yet recovered from the pandemic."

The mayor's order comes just a day after de Blasio mandated vaccinations for all of the city's new hires, requiring them to provide proof of vaccination by their first day of work without the option to get tested regularly instead. De Blasio issued similar mandates for city employees and health-care workers in July, asking them to either verify their immunization status by Aug. 2 or submit weekly negative coronavirus tests.

New York City also on July 30 started offering $100 for anyone receiving their vaccinations from a city vaccine site. According to de Blasio, 11,000 people have earned the $100 promotion so far, with 5 million total city residents immunized with at least one dose.

"The only reason we're having this recovery is vaccination," de Blasio said. "So it's time. And this is going to send that message clearly."

CNBC's Pia Singh contributed to this reporting.

Correction: An earlier headline mischaracterized the scope of the vaccine mandate for indoor activities. It will cover certain indoor activities.