Michael Appleton/ New York City Mayoral Photography Office
New York City will require city workers to be vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID-19, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced.
De Blasio cited the danger and lethality of the rapidly spreading Delta variant in announcing the mandate, which will apply to roughly 340,000 city workers. That includes the city’s teachers and its police officers.
Renee Campion, commissioner at the New York City Office of Labor Relations, said if employees refuse to comply, they will be put on leave without pay.
Monday’s decision makes New York the largest city in the nation to take such a step. The mayor said the announcement was part of what will be an intense vaccination effort in the lead-up to the start of the school year.
“We’re leading by example,” de Blasio said, noting that he hopes the city’s stance will push private employers to follow. “Right now there are employers ready to act, who will take heart from our announcement.”
Most adults in the city have at least one dose already
In New York City, some 71% of adults have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Information on the vaccination rate among city workers is incomplete, but it is thought to be similar to the overall rate for adults.
Part of the goal of the new mandate is to “lift all boats” by creating a higher standard, said New York City Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi.
City workers who are unvaccinated must wear a mask when indoors at work, de Blasio said, adding that workers who don’t will be removed from the workforce.
The mayor says the city has an obligation to take action
De Blasio said the city is in talks with various worker unions, but that the city has the right as an employer to take urgent actions to protect the health and safety of workers in the middle of a global pandemic.
Campion said that under the New York City collective bargaining law, the city does have to negotiate with unions regarding the safety impacts of these policies.
“It’s quite clear the Delta variant has changed the game. Now it’s time to focus on one thing and one thing only — vaccination. No more excuses, no more delays,” de Blasio said. “Our goal here is simple: make it maximally easy for people to get vaccinated and create an atmosphere where there’s clearly consequences if you don’t get vaccinated. Because vaccination is the only answer at this point.”