Starting Monday inspectors in New York will be hitting the streets to enforce the city’s indoor vaccine mandate for bars, restaurants and other businesses, but Mayor Bill de Blasio says the priority wont be slapping businesses with fines.
At least not at first.
‘No one is starting this out with the intention of fining, we don’t want to fine, we just want people to be safe,’ he said at City Hall on Thursday.
Instead, he claimed the focus will be on ensuring businesses are following vaccine check protocols, which he said he was confident many will do.
As enforcement of New York City’s vaccine mandate loomed Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was reluctant to fine businesses that do not follow vaccine checks for patrons
‘I think the vast, vast majority of businesses are committed to doing it the right way,’ he said.
Agencies responsible for vaccine check inspections
Department of Environmental Protection
Department of Buildings
Department of Health
Department of Transportation
Housing Preservation & Development
Office of Special Enforcement
Street Condition Observation Unit
Taxi & Limousine Commission
Enforcement will involve civilian inspectors from 13 city agencies, including the FNDY, DOT and Parks as well as other, perhaps more unusual choices, such as the Taxi & Limousine Commission.
The NYPD will not be involved in the enforcement of the mayor’s so-called ‘Key to NYC’ program.
Other requirements in the mandate include the display of certain literature, which de Blasio said would be provided to businesses.
Venues have been implementing vaccine checks on a voluntary basis since August 16.
Despite de Blasio’s expressed reluctance, spokesman Bill Neidhardt said the city was fully prepared to issue fines to violators.
After an initial warning, he said, a business could be hit with a $1,000 fine, a third violation could net the establishment a $2,000 fine and after that any violations would come with a $5,000 fine.
Official enforcement comes as nearly 60 percent of New Yorkers have been fully vaccinated, according to city Department of Health figures, and de Blasio announced that 10.9 million vaccine doses had been administered in the city.
Coronavirus cases have also declined in the city from a recent seven-day moving average peak of 2,261 on August 18 to 1,511 on September 4.
With around 33 percent of the city population still completely unvaccinated, hesitancy remains a problem in some communities, despite incentives such as paying New Yorkers $100 to get their first shot at a city-run site.
As a result, de Blasio rolled out on Thursday a $35million program to provide bonuses to doctors that successfully refer patients to city vaccine sites.
The vaccine mandate policy was announced on August 3, and was met with a great deal of confusion.
Restaurant owners and advocates initially hit back, saying the industry could face collapse if restrictions continue to burden a sector of the economy that has faced lost revenues and a staffing crisis over the past year and a half.
Also as part of the vaccine mandate, businesses will be required display certain literature (pictured) that de Blasio said would be provided to owners
Enforcement of the policy comes as nearly 60 percent of city residents have been vaccinated
‘Government is still making things harder on our industry. We can’t take it much longer,’ said New York State Restaurant Association President and CEO Melissa Fleischut, who says restaurants have suffered enough losses and restrictions during the pandemic.
Sean Ogs, manager of the Woodside Cafe in Queens, said he was ‘floored’ when he heard the news.
‘We’ve already been in a struggle. I don’t know how I’m going to deal with it,’ Ogs said.
‘It’s going to be extra work. It’ll make things impossible.’
De Blasio said on August 3 that some details of how the program will work still need to be worked out, but he did not think checking vaccination status should be too difficult for businesses, which already have to take tickets or show diners to a table.
Infections in the city are also down from a recent peak in mid August
Those looking to catch a Broadway show or get in a morning workout will need to pull out a CDC vaccination card or an app like the Excelsior Pass proving that they’ve had at least one jab of a Covid vaccine. Vaccination cards will be accepted as proof of inoculation, along with state and city apps.
Some patrons too were not pleased with the change.
Debbie McCarthy, a regular at the Woodside Cafe who is unvaccinated, said she was turned away over the weekend from several establishments that had already begun requiring proof of vaccinations from patrons.
‘I’m a little shocked they would do that,’ said McCarthy, who said she recovered from Covid a few months ago and believes her natural antibodies will protect from future infections.
‘Why are they so afraid of people who haven’t been vaccinated? I think we should have a choice.’