NYC Retailers Mixed on Vaccine Mandate Expansion to Private Sector

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is getting tougher on vaccines. The mayor appeared on MSNBC on Monday morning to announce new measures requiring all private-sector workers in the city to be full vaccinated. The mandate, which will take effect on Dec. 27, will apply to roughly 184,000 businesses, according to the mayor.

The mandate also includes proof of vaccination for indoor dining, fitness, and entertainment for children ages 5 to 11 starting Dec. 14. This same age group will also be required to get vaccinated to participate in high-risk extracurricular activities including sports, band, orchestra, and dance. This requirement for the initial vaccine dose will also take effect on Dec. 14. De Blasio also noted that all New Yorkers aged 12 and older will need to show proof of two vaccine doses, up from just one, except for those who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The mayor leaves office at the end of the month, so, it’s unclear if this measure will be implemented and upheld by incoming mayor, Eric Adams.

Reactions from local retailers have been mixed. Lester Wasserman, owner of Tip Top Shoes, told FN on a phone call that he is concerned about this new mandate. He said he’s “not sure the answer is to threaten unvaccinated workers’ financial stability.”

Wasserman noted there is still distrust in the vaccine among some. In addition, he noted there are holdouts who believe they have natural immunity due to previous virus infection. “Frankly, a lot of these people are the ones who need to work the most,” he said.

The retailer noted that he has not asked his staff about its vaccination status and believes there may be some employees who may have not been inoculated due to “their choice.” No word on how he plans to address this with his staff as of this posting.

At Rothmans, a menswear clothier based in Union Square, owner Ken Giddon offered an opposing view. “I agree with the mandate. It might create additional hiring and employee retention issues, but that is not as bad as a future mandate to shut down (the city) if the virus continues to spread.”

“Ultimately, we are part of the community that is NYC,” added Giddon in an email. “If cops, firemen, and teachers are obligated to do so, the rest of us probably should as well. However, I am just a guy that sell pants and shoes, so maybe we should pay less attention to the opinion of people like me, and more to the science. The science says get the vaccine.”

Speaking of science, FN also spoke to Dr. Anthony Harris, owner of HFit Health and the CIO and associate medical director for WorkCare, who said that when analyzing the surge in coronavirus cases in South Africa that have the omicron variant, far fewer vaccinated individuals were admitted to the hospital. According to Dr. Harris, “[that] suggests that we will have some protection if you are fully vaccinated and certainly a little bit more, if you have received your booster as well.”

When asked about the new private sector mandate, Dr. Harris told FN that the companies that will be affected the most by this measure are small businesses. “If you are a mom and pop, and you only have three employees. You lose one, you have a third of your workforce. So, I expect to see this may backfire and have a dramatic impact,” he said. “It won’t be a sweeping impact, but it will impact a vast minority of businesses. And there may be some businesses that don’t walk away from it with without having to close the doors, if not just temporarily.”

According to a press release, the city will issue additional enforcement and reasonable accommodation guidance on Dec. 15, along with additional resources to support small businesses with implementation.

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

Today’s expansions follow recently announced vaccination mandates for city employees, childcare providers, and non-public school employees. Ninety-four percent of the City workforce is vaccinated.

New York City has administered over 12.5 million vaccination doses. Nearly 6.5 million New Yorkers – including 89% of adults – have received at least one dose. More than 125,000 children aged 5-11 have already received at least one dose.

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