New York City ends vaccination mandate for city workers
New York City will end its aggressive but controversial coronavirus vaccine mandate for city workers, Mayor Eric Adams announced Monday, signaling a key moment in the city’s long battle with the pandemic.
“With over 96% of city workers and over 80% of New Yorkers having received their first round of Covid-19 and more tools readily available to keep us healthy, now is a good time for this decision,” Adams said in a statement.
From Friday, Adams said coronavirus vaccination would become optional for current and potential municipal workers. Visitors to schools in the city will also no longer be required to provide proof of at least one dose of vaccine to enter.
The vaccination mandate for city workers was set in October 2021 by former Mayor Bill de Blasio and was one of the most aggressive moves in the country to increase vaccination rates. This prompted the dismissal of hundreds of workers and a series of lawsuits. Some workers asked for religious exemptions.
Mr. Adams, a moderate Democrat entering his second year in office, has sought to push the city past the pandemic and has ended numerous terms implemented by Mr. de Blasio. Last year Mr Adams ended vaccination mandates for private employers and for indoor dining and ended mask mandates in schools. Last September, Governor Kathy Hochul ended a mask mandate on subways and buses.
The city said Monday that more than 331,000 city workers have been fully vaccinated. About 1,780 city employees were fired for not being vaccinated; those workers cannot automatically return to their previous positions, but can apply for positions with their former agencies through the normal hiring process, city officials said.
As the city approaches the third anniversary of the pandemic, coronavirus cases have been high over the winter as many New Yorkers have been infected, some for the second or third time. In early January, more than 1,900 people were hospitalized with the virus in the city, according to state data. Cases have dropped recently; now there are about 965 people in hospital. There are still about 15 deaths a day.
The city’s health commissioner, Dr Ashwin Vasan, said vaccination mandates had been an important tool, but the city was now moving out of the “emergency phase of the pandemic”.
“It is clear that these warrants saved lives and were absolutely necessary to deal with the moment,” he said.