The Perfect Enemy | NYC COVID vaccine mandate to be lifted for private sector, mayor says
February 18, 2024

Mayor Eric Adams is lifting New York City’s only-in-the-nation mandate that private sector employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 — but for now is keeping the requirement for the city’s more than 300,000 public workers.

The revocation for the private sector goes into effect Nov. 1 and puts “the choice in the hands of New York businesses,” Adams said Tuesday.

Asked why he’s lifting the private but not public sector mandate — under which more than 1,000 municipal workers have been fired for failure to be vaccinated — Adams said: “We’re in a steady phase of pivot and shift. We do things. We roll things out slowly. Right now, that is not on the radar for us.”

He added: “I don’t think anything dealing with COVID is, makes sense, and there’s no logical pathway of one can do. You make the decisions based on how to keep our city safe, how to keep our employees operating by taking their vaccine.”

The mandates date to Adams’ predecessor, Bill de Blasio. Although the public sector mandate continues to be enforced, Newsday reported earlier this year that neither Adams nor de Blasio had ever enforced the private sector mandate.

Adams’ spokesman had said the city had done no inspections, levied no fines, and had no plans to do so.

Under the mandate, which started Dec. 27, employers must seek each worker’s proof of vaccination, maintain a log of who is and isn’t vaccinated, and “must exclude from the workplace any worker” who’s unvaccinated, according to the city’s order.

Asked the public health logic for keeping one employment mandate and not the other, the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, did not answer directly but said: “At the time of institution of these mandates, the major effect was to push people to get vaccinated. You always have early adopters, and you always have the intransigent few who won’t get vaccinated, and the purpose of the mandate in the interest of public health is also to push people to get vaccinated, which it’s been extraordinarily successful in doing.”

The public sector mandate has been challenged in court, particularly by workers fired as a result of refusing to be vaccinated.

Following Adams’ announcement, the Police Benevolent Association, the labor union representing the rank and file, issued a statement: “This announcement is more proof that the vaccine mandate for New York City police officers is arbitrary, capricious, and fundamentally irrational. Now that the city has abandoned any pretense of a public health justification for vaccine mandates, we expect it to settle our pending lawsuits and reinstate with back pay our members who unjustly lost their jobs.”

Also Tuesday, Adams announced that a separate requirement that public school students be vaccinated as a condition of participating in sports or extracurricular activities was being lifted.

It’s the latest rollback of mandates imposed earlier in the pandemic — including masks in gathering places, and proof of vaccination at theaters. eateries and gyms.

In March, Adams announced the end of the private sector mandate for hometown athletes and other performers but not anyone else. That move was prompted by unvaccinated athletes like the Nets’ Kyrie Irving, who had been barred from playing in home games until the change.