Mayor Bill de Blasio is certainly leaving his mark as he packs up Gracie Mansion. Beginning just after Christmas, anyone who wants to collect a paycheck in New York City will have to be vaccinated.
"We just talked about an attack on democracy, well, we are under attack in a different way right now from the coronavirus," de Blasio told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program Monday morning, according to a transcript provided by his office. "And we've got omicron as a new factor. We've got the colder weather, which is going to really create additional challenges with the delta variant. We've got holiday gatherings.
"We in New York City have decided to use a pre-emptive strike to really do something bold to stop the further growth of COVID and the dangers it's causing to all of us."
de Blasio already requires anyone who works in the public sector to be vaccinated, but extending that to the private sector is something that has not been done anywhere else in the country, the mayor said. The omicron variant has reached New York City, but is a fraction of the current cases.
While early data suggests omicron is highly transmissible — and could likely compete with delta — that same data suggests the variant does not create more severe illness, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN on Sunday.
"But we really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe or really doesn't cause any severe illness comparable to delta," said Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "But thus far, the signals are a bit encouraging regarding the severity. But again, you got to hold judgment until we get more experience."
de Blasio is set to implement a mandate on a city that has some of the lowest infection rates in the state — if not the country — and in which a vast majority of its population already is fully vaccinated. Nearly 7.3 million people have at least one vaccine dose, while 6.4 million of them have a completed vaccination series, according to Gov. Kathy Hochul's office.
That represents 77 percent of the total population — including children — who are now fully vaccinated in the city.
de Blasio's office says as many as 89 percent of adults in the city have received at least one vaccine dose, while more than 125,000 children between 5 and 11 already have at least started vaccination.
Infection rates have climbed slightly in the city to just above 2 percent positivity. But that's half of the state's next best numbers in the Mid-Hudson region, which includes Westchester and surrounding counties. Long Island is now at a nearly 6 percent positivity rate while Western New York and the Finger Lakes regions are above or near 11 percent.
Staten Island continues to drive most of New York City's numbers with a positivity rate of 3.7 percent, according to the governor's office. The Bronx is at 2.2 percent, behind Manhattan's 1.6 percent and Brooklyn's 2 percent. Queens is just under 3 percent.
On a statewide level, 81 percent of adults are fully vaccinated, according to numbers provided to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while more than 91 percent have received at least one dose.
de Blasio's new mandate also requires children between 5 and 11 to show proof of at least one vaccination dose before visiting indoor dining, fitness, entertainment and performance venues beginning Dec. 14, according to his office. That increases to two doses for anyone 12 and older beginning Dec. 27 — except for those taking the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Children between 5 and 11 also will be required to get vaccinated before participating in what the city deems to be "high-risk" activities like sports, band, orchestra and dance. Any child looking to do any of that would need at least one dose of a vaccine by Dec. 15.
de Blasio told "Morning Joe" cohost Mika Brzezinski there has already been significant cooperation in the private job sector in terms of vaccination, and he hopes this new mandate will just be an extension of that.
"This would be my advice to mayors, governors, CEOs all over the country — use these vaccine mandates," de Blasio said. "The more universal they are, the more likely employees will say, 'OK. It's time. I'm going to do this.' Because you can't jump from one industry to another, or one company to another. It's something that needs to be universal to protect all of us."