New York City is the first in the US to require proof of vaccination as a condition of entry for people who wish to enter venues such as restaurants, theaters, stadiums and gyms.
New York officials are racing to get ahead of a potential third wave of the pandemic by stepping up the pressure on residents to get vaccinated. Similar to policies in France, Italy and Spain, New York is launching a mandate called the Key to NYC Pass to encourage vaccine uptake and reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading in busy indoor spaces by requiring proof of inoculation from patrons.
At a press conference on Tuesday morning, mayor Bill de Blasio announced details of the plan that will be introduced on August 16 for a transition period before full enforcement on September 13. Fines will be imposed on inspected businesses who do not ask for proof of vaccination at their doors.
"We're not going to issue fines before September," Mr de Blasio told reporters. "It's pretty straightforward. People checking in to go to a restaurant or bar or anything, you check the vaccination status at the door. If they have it, great; if they don't, turn around."
How does the Key to NYC Pass work for residents and tourists?
There is no specific pass or paperwork for the Key to NYC Pass. If you're a New York resident, you can show your vaccination card at the door or upload your vaccination status to the Excelsior Pass smartphone app. If you're visiting New York from another state or even a different country, you can present whatever vaccination card that was issued to you by official health providers.
Mr de Blasio said: "As long as the proof is accurate and real, wherever it comes from, that's what they'll need to show."
What about children?
The pass only applies to people who can be vaccinated. Children under 12 will be able to enter venues, though Mr de Blasio said in the coming months it's likely that children between the ages of five and 11 will be eligible for vaccination. More details on how the pass will work for children will be announced within the next two weeks.
"The goal is not to exclude anyone who can't be vaccinated," he explained. "Everyone in New York City 12 and older will now have a very clear standard to meet. If they want to do any of these activities indoors, they'll need to be vaccinated."
Where do I need to show the Key to NYC Pass?
For now, it will be required at busy indoor spaces that attract crowds such as restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters, cinemas and stadiums. Essential everyday places like grocery stores and even shopping malls are excluded.
Will more COVID-19 mandates be introduced?
Mr de Blasio told reporters that the approach to managing the pandemic is "vaccine-centric" for now and New York doesn't plan to introduce additional measures like mask mandates, though people are strongly encouraged to wear masks in public spaces. Mr de Blasio explained that he wants to "show very bluntly that life is much better when you're vaccinated" and that people who are not vaccinated have "fewer opportunities."
"When you hear those words, I want you to imagine the notion that, because someone’s vaccinated, they can do all the amazing things that are available in this city," Mr de Blasio said of the Key to NYC Pass.
Last week, Mr de Blasio announced that city workers who aren't vaccinated will be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 tests and offered a $100 incentive for the public to get vaccinated.
In the US, having to prove you're vaccinated against COVID-19 before entering venues is becoming more common. In California, a group representing around 300 of San Francisco's bars has directed its members to ask for proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 result from their patrons. The San Francisco Bar Alliance said in a statement it is the group's "official position" from July 29 and "it will be up to each individual bar to decide how best to enforce" the new policy.
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