Following unofficial mandates and incentives around New York, vaccinations have risen significantly toward the end of July. According to preliminary data from the New York City Health Department, nearly 80,000 residents have gotten their first vaccine doses at the end of July – a 39.5 percent increase from a few weeks prior.
But do these “unofficial” mandates threaten New Yorkers’ — or even Americans’ — rights to choose?
It’s worth understanding that the increase began when Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that workers at the city’s public hospital system and Health Department clinics were mandated to get vaccinated or take weekly COVID tests. The same week, vaccinations increased by 7,000 compared to the previous seven days. The trend continued for the week of July 27, when the mayor announced that all 340,000 municipal employees must get vaccinated or test negative for COVID on a weekly basis by mid-September.
Then came the incentives: $100 to any NYC resident or employee who got vaccinated at a city-run clinic. This carrot-and-stick approach saw an almost 11,000 increase in vaccinations compared to the previous week.
This increased rate of injections in NYC is consistent with the trend throughout the United States, and the so-called delta variant has forced key conservative voices to encourage their constituents to get the shot. Democratic leaders and major industries have enforced the vaccinations by way of mandates, as well.
In NYC, it looks like the pace of vaccinations will continue, as de Blasio announced that residents and visitors over the age of 12 must show proof of vaccination to be able to enter public places such as restaurants, bars, gyms, and even movie theaters by showing their vaccination cards. (Related: Mandatory coronavirus vaccination bill introduced in New York State Assembly.)
New York mandates a sign of what’s ahead
De Blasio’s move is being watched by other communities not only as a model but also as a possible example of overreach. After all, last year’s forced lockdowns and mask mandates have taken a toll on public life, including how and where people gather, and whether or not they should be required to wear masks.
“Anything less than vaccination isn’t going to get us where we need to go. It’s pretty straightforward. You check their vaccination status. If they have it, great. If they don’t, turn around,” de Blasio added.
New York City has reopened its economy, with tourists and locals finding their way back to the city; however, some business owners find it difficult to adhere to policies. Michael Musto, owner of Cargo Cafe in Staten Island said he can’t see himself asking his regulars whether or not they have been vaccinated.
“I just don’t see myself doing that, asking for proof. But now do I have to turn my customers away? Do I have to turn business away?” he asked.
Barely half of Musto’s neighborhood’s residents have been fully vaccinated, according to city statistics. However, he would follow the rules to avoid the risk of another lockdown.
“It’s a scare tactic maybe. Hopefully, it will work,” Musto said. “I can’t afford to have everything shut down again.”
“If that happens, I might have to close permanently. I’m in no position to move backward.”
It’s worth noting that vaccination mandates are not limited to the United States. In France, individuals must show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test before entering restaurants or travel on trains — a move that has sparked protests. Meanwhile, Galicia, a province in Spain, requires hotel visitors to be inoculated; Romania is considering implementing vaccine mandates to enter shopping malls. Hong Kong also announced that civil servants must get vaccinated or pay for weekly testing. Italy rolled out a green pass which shows proof of inoculation to enter a variety of venues.