- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 20, 2022

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said Tuesday a citywide COVID-19 vaccine mandate on private-sector workers and students who participate in extracurricular activities will become optional on Nov. 1.

Mr. Adams, a Democrat, said he will urge private businesses to develop their own rules as he dropped the contentious mandate in a press event on new “bivalent” booster shots that attack the original strain of the virus and variants that are circulating now. The mayor rolled up his sleeve for his own shot and said the city will advertise the boosters before winter.

“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,” he said. “We urge all New Yorkers to make a plan to get vaccinated if they are eligible, and we are grateful to the millions of New Yorkers who have already stepped up to keep themselves and their community safe.”

Former Mayor Bill de Blasio issued the sweeping vaccine mandates on businesses at the end of 2021, one month before he left office. The rule caused a firestorm but was not strictly enforced.

The business community welcomed Mr. Adams’ decision to make it optional.

“The mayor’s decision to allow individual employers to determine COVID-19 protocols is most welcome,” said Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, a prominent business group. “It will accelerate return to the office and encourage New Yorkers to move beyond the pandemic mentality.”

Mr. Adams came into office this year pledging to revive the Big Apple’s mojo after a bruising pandemic. It has been difficult, however, because concerns around crime and the availability of remote work have kept people away from its once-bustling business districts.

The mayor says workers feed the ecosystem of merchants in Manhattan and city hotspots, so it is important for employees to return.

The decision to ease off private-sector vaccine mandates will be seen as an extension of that effort but may spark new controversy since Mr. Adams said he plans to continue a mandate on city workers.

Tuesday’s decision reflects a broader push to rely on booster shots and other tools to keep the virus in check instead of issuing sweeping social restrictions. President Biden recently declared the pandemic phase is “over.”

Mr. Adams previously lifted vaccine mandates for entry to restaurants and bars and rules that governed professional athletes.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, recently lifted a mask requirement for public transit and relinquished emergency powers related to the pandemic as she prepares for a reelection fight against Rep. Lee Zeldin. The Republican said the powers allowed the governor to bypass normal competitive bidding requirements with contractors.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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