New York City will lift its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private-sector employers on Nov. 1, Mayor Eric Adams said Tuesday in another sign of the city’s gradual return to pre-pandemic norms.
The city began requiring almost all private businesses to ban unvaccinated employees from the workplace in December 2021, just as the Omicron wave began claiming hundreds of lives in the city. It remains the largest place in the U.S. to have made vaccines mandatory as a workplace safety measure.
Some workers who refused the shots were fired. The mandate also grabbed attention for its potential impact on professional sports, though just before the Yankees and Mets began their seasons, Adams gave a special exemption to athletes and entertainers. Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving had famously been barred from playing in home games because of the city’s vaccine rules.
Adams, a Democrat, announced the relaxation of the rules at a City Hall news conference where he got his own updated COVID-19 booster shot. Employers will be free to continue requiring workers to get vaccinated as a condition of employment.
“This puts the choice in the hands of New York businesses,” Adams said.
Proof of vaccination will, for the time being, still be required for municipal workers, including police officers, firefighters and teachers, the mayor said. The city is still in the process of firing hundreds of workers who refused the shots.
“We’re in a steady phase of pivot and shift. We do things, we roll things out slowly. Right now, that is not on the radar for us,” he said.
Most Broadway theaters stopped requiring proof of vaccination over the summer, and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced this month that masks were no longer required on public transportation, including subway trains and stations.
Asked about the differing rules for public and private employees, city Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan said, “We’re looking at all of our policies and thinking about a glide path towards normal.”
The announcement comes after President Biden, in a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday, declared that the pandemic was over in the U.S.
“The pandemic is over,” Mr. Biden said. “We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lotta work on it. … But the pandemic is over.”