Vaccinated office workers in New York City can soon be joined by the unvaccinated, according to Mayor Eric Adams who plans to lift the requirement on Nov. 1.
Adams said during a Tuesday announcement regarding booster shots that, even though the mandate will be gone, his office will continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and allow companies to decide whether or not to require the vaccines for employment or attendance.
Aside from office workers, the mandate will remove the vaccine requirements for city students to participate in afterschool activities. Adams said that he would still keep the mandate in place for public employees.
The administration, however, was not clear on how policies might change depending on the spread of the endemic virus.
“The new bivalent booster is here, providing better protection against variants we are seeing now and quite likely against variants in the future as well,” Adams said in a statement. “With so many tools now more easily accessible to keep New Yorkers safe from COVID-19, the additional flexibility we are announcing for private employers, students, and parents puts the choice back into each of their hands.”
Adams lifted the mandate soon after many companies started calling their employees back to the office more regularly after Labor Day.
The days following Labor Day weekend saw a slow and steady uptick in office attendance with the Partnership for New York City recording that about 49 percent of workers returned to their desks between Aug. 29 and Sept. 12.
Nationwide, 47.5 percent of office workers across 10 cities in the U.S. had returned to work last week, a 4 percent increase from the previous week.
Meanwhile, 3.7 million straphangers who rode the subway on Nov. 14, the highest total since ridership plunged over 90 percent in March 2020 and a 30 percent increase over the same period last year, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
“The mayor’s decision to allow individual employers to determine COVID-19 protocols is most welcome,” Kathryn Wylde, CEO of the Partnership for New York City, said in a statement Tuesday. “It will accelerate return to the office and encourage New Yorkers to move beyond the pandemic mentality.”
Former Mayor Bill de Blasio put the mandate into place in December 2021 that required in-person and public facing workers get vaccinated — unless they got exemptions for religious or medical reasons — or their employers could face fines. The move faced some ire from businesses and at least one class-action lawsuit filed against the city.
Adams — who has been pushing companies to require in-person work since he took office — already lifted the vaccination requirement for indoor dining, entertainment and gyms in March.
But the decision to keep the requirement in place for public employeesraised the ire of Patrolman’s Benevolent Association president, Patrick Lynch.
“This announcement is more proof that the vaccine mandate for New York City police officers is arbitrary, capricious, and fundamentally irrational,” Lynch said in a statement. “Now that the city has abandoned any pretense of a public health justification for vaccine mandates, we expect it to settle our pending lawsuits and reinstate with back pay our members who unjustly lost their jobs.”
Mark Hallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.