September 16, 2021

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N.Y.C.’s mayor calls for companies to require shots, as national debate over vaccine mandates picks up. – The New York Times

3 min read

Mayor Bill de Blasio urged on Friday that New York City’s private businesses require their workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus and signaled that he would introduce similar measures for hundreds of thousands of municipal employees.

The mayor’s comments came just days after he announced that all employees in the public hospital system would have to either receive a virus vaccine or submit to weekly testing.

The highly contagious Delta variant has fueled outbreaks among the unvaccinated across the United States and in recent days many local governments and private organizations have been grappling with whether to put vaccination mandates in place. Several organizations — including various hospital systems, schools, the city of San Francisco and professional football — have taken steps to require vaccinations.

The mayor’s new position reflected growing concern that New York, like much of the United States, is on the verge of another wave of the pandemic. In just a few weeks, case counts in the city have tripled, to more than 650 a day on average, while inoculation rates have leveled off.

“If people want freedom, if people want jobs, if people want to live again, we have got to get more people vaccinated,” Mr. de Blasio said on Friday during a weekly radio appearance on WNYC. “And obviously it’s time for whatever mandates we can achieve.”

Although nearly five million New York City residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, the speed at which new shots are being administered has slowed. Nationally, 57 percent of Americans have gotten at least one vaccine dose; 49 percent are fully vaccinated.

New York City officials have tried everything from mobile vaccination sites to in-home vaccination visits to offering incentives like cash and movie tickets, but they have yet to see a significant rise in inoculations.

Even vaccinations among employees of many city agencies — including the Police Department, the Fire Department and the public schools — have remained below the citywide rate of full vaccination among adults, 65 percent.

“We have reached the limits of purely voluntary,” Mr. de Blasio said on Friday. “It’s time for more mandates.”

On Thursday, the National Football League on Thursday sent a memo to all 32 teams saying that players who refuse to receive a Covid-19 vaccine may risk their teams’ forfeiting games if they test positive and cause an outbreak.

Nationally, new cases, hospitalizations and deaths remain far below their winter peaks, but the rapid spread of the Delta variant has led to a steep rise in hospitalizations in some spots around the country where people have been slower to get vaccinated.

The number of new cases in the country has nearly tripled in the last two weeks, with an average of more than 45,000 infections now being diagnosed each day.

Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently warned that “this is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated” and that the United States had reached a “pivotal point.”

Vaccines remain effective against the worst outcomes of Covid-19, including from the Delta variant, and experts say breakthrough infections in vaccinated people are so far still relatively uncommon.

Still, hospitalizations are now trending upward in 45 states, and some health care centers in portions of the Midwest, West and South are struggling. Florida has recently seen the most hospitalizations for Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.

The Biden administration has pursued multiple strategies to get more people vaccinated and, as that pool has shrunk, focused on more personalized efforts to reach those who have not gotten shots.

On Friday, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, again rejected the idea of a nationwide mandate to take the vaccine, saying it is not the role of the federal government to impose that choice on people.

“There will be institutions, there will be private sector companies and others who make decisions about how to keep their community safe. That’s certainly appropriate,” Ms. Psaki said.

Reed Abelson and Dan Levin contributed reporting.

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