DeBlasio sets up a previous vaccine in New York. Will California follow suit?

Maybe it took a politician with little to lose in doing so.

On Monday, Bill DeBlasio, the outgoing mayor of New York, announced the largest COVID vaccination mandate ever in the United States. At least, apparently, that’s what he did. What the DeBlasio Order can actually do is cover business owners who have long wanted to set up mandates, but weren’t eager to face a personal backlash from their employees. .

They can blame the city now. First in an interview on MSNBC and later at a press conference, DeBlasio, whose term as mayor expires on December 31, said in-person workers at all private companies in New York City must receive at least their first dose of a COVID vaccine by December. 27. Although medical and religious exemptions are being considered, there is no alternative to regular testing. It is a firm requirement.

In many ways, DeBlasio’s vaccine mandate is straightforward business rhetoric: immunization compliance keeps workplaces safe and doors open.

It also has scope. While most estimates suggest that 90% of adult New York City residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, DeBlasio’s order affects some 184,000 private companies, many of which employ outside workers. from the city. The mayor said he would announce detailed guidance on the new rule by December 15, including penalties for companies that fail to comply.

The measure is “a preemptive strike,” DeBlasio told MSNBC. “Omicron is there, and it looks like he’s very communicable. It’s just going to make a predicament even more difficult. The timing is horrible with the winter months. Later, speaking with reporters, DeBlasio added, “We have to take some very bold action. We see restrictions. We’re seeing closures… We can’t have closures in New York. “

In many ways, this is a straightforward business case: Immunization compliance keeps workplaces safe and doors open. But as Emily Gee, senior health policy researcher at the Center for American Progress, told the New York Times, “Employers are reluctant to impose vaccines, especially in areas where there is a lot of reluctance and where vaccines have been politicized.”

This politicization has led to dramatic variations in vaccination rates. In October, the tenth of the country that distorted red the most in the last election saw COVID death rates six times higher than those of the tenth bluest, with much of the difference attributed to rates of considerably lower vaccination in the redder areas.

New York City already has several documented cases of the omicron variant, and the city’s health department says COVID case rates overall are on the rise again.

Taking the decision out of the hands of individual companies via the city mandate may be the end of part of this political setback. New York is hardly the South, but while private companies have always had the option of requiring their workers to be vaccinated, only about half of New York City employers have.

The city’s legal advisers are convinced that its health branch has the right to apply such a mandate, because it is broad and does not unfairly distinguish any particular institution or company. The local rule also contrasts with President Joe Biden’s recent attempt to order worker vaccinations for all large private companies in the United States, which is being challenged on the grounds that the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration exceeds its legal authority.

New York City’s adult vaccination rate is relatively robust, but there are already several documented cases of the omicron variant, and the city’s health department says rates of COVID cases overall are again on the rise. Like many cities, New York has long required vaccines for its city and health workers. But no major American city has required its private businesses to be fully immunized before.

DeBlasio is about to complete his second term. With no political capital at stake, it may be well placed to withstand criticism of the security rule. But DeBlasio also said he had spoken with incoming mayor Eric Adams and was convinced Adams would want to continue the terms, adding: “He was really consistent that he felt an urgency over these new threats. “

A more important question, perhaps, is whether leaders in other cities will follow New York’s lead.

Early research in South Africa indicates that omicron can spread several times faster than the delta variant, which itself was twice as transmissible as previous COVID strains.

Since the start of the pandemic, local control has often proved more effective than broader efforts to enforce mask or vaccine mandates. In California, statewide health guidelines have been erratic and subject to legal challenges, and the vaccine rollout has been so mismanaged that local health departments have sought – and received – permission to essentially regain control of their allocated doses.

San Francisco seems a good bet to enact a rule similar to that of New York. The city has already seen 85% of its population receive at least one dose of the vaccine and was way ahead of the national curve in requiring proof of vaccination to enter indoor restaurants and bars, gyms, concert halls and more. gathering places. Los Angeles recently started demanding similar proof for such locations, but it’s unclear what the political appetite would be for a private employer mandate.

Not much is known about the omicron variant with any degree of certainty. The concern, however, is justified: Early research in South Africa, where the strain was first observed, indicates that the omicron can spread several times faster than the delta variant, which itself was twice as transmissible as previous COVID strains. Coupled with the recent easing of precautionary measures in many parts of the United States, such as mask warrants and limits on group gatherings, the holiday season which started last month and continues until the end of the year is a ripe target for further spread of the virus.

That may not mean that other cities will immediately pass a rule requiring workers in private companies to be vaccinated. But it will be surprising that Bill DeBlasio is the only mayor to make such a statement. As DeBlasio said of New York City, most cities can’t stand another shutdown – and major threats often call for major action.

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