Moving the Needle: New York City to Mandate COVID Vaccines at All Private Employers

Anthony A. Mingione

Outgoing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the country’s first vaccine mandate to apply to all private-sector workers. The mandate, which is scheduled to take effect on December 27, 2021, would apply to roughly 184,000 businesses in the City.

Acceptable proof of vaccination will include a CDC-issued vaccination card, the New York State Excelsior Pass, the Clear Health Pass, and the NYC COVID Safe App.

The City plans to issue enforcement guidance on December 15, 2021. The guidance is expected to include provisions for reasonable accommodations for religious and medical exemption requests. The announcement also includes a pledge of additional resources to support small businesses with implementation, though what will qualify as a “small business” or what those resources will be remains to be seen.

The announcement left many other questions unanswered. For example, it is unclear how the mandate will be enforced, and what the penalties for noncompliance, if any, will be. The Mayor also did not indicate whether there will be a grace period for individuals who have received one shot of a two-shot vaccine before December 27.

In announcing the mandate, de Blasio stated, “Vaccination is the way out of this pandemic, and these are bold, first-in-the-nation measures to encourage New Yorkers to keep themselves and their communities safe.”

The mandate follows the recent New York City vaccination mandates for the City’s own employees, childcare providers, and non-public school employees. Nearly 90 percent of New York City’s adult population has received at least one vaccine dose, and 94 percent of the City’s employees are vaccinated.

Eric Adams, who will be sworn in as New York City’s next mayor on January 1, 2022, has not committed to the mandate. His team has indicated that Mr. Adams will evaluate the mandate and other COVID strategies once he takes office next month.

We will continue to monitor this developing situation and will provide the latest updates here. For other COVID developments, please visit Blank Rome’s Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) Task Force page.

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