Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a significant expansion to his “Key to NYC” program on Monday, December 6, 2021.  Previously, the Key to NYC program required people 12 and older to show proof of at least one vaccine dose in order to enter restaurants, gyms, and entertainment venues.  Now, beginning December 27, 2021, private employers within New York City will also be required to verify that employees who are not remote have received at least one dose of an approved vaccine before returning to work, making New York the first city to implement such an order.  This order goes further than OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard, as the New York City order applies to all employers, regardless of size or industry.  It is estimated to affect 184,000 workers.  The Order does not apply to remote workers.  NYC has promised additional guidance for businesses by December 15, 2021.

The private employer mandate is not the only change announced to the Key to NYC program.  Beginning December 14, 2021, in order to enter restaurants, gyms, and entertainment venues. children ages 5 through 11 will also be required to show proof that they have received at least one vaccination dose, in the form of a CDC vaccination card, New York State Excelsior Pass, Clear Health Pass, or the NYC COVID Safe App.  Further, people 12 and older will now be required to show they have received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, rather than a single dose, to enter said establishments.  A single dose will still be sufficient for those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.  Finally, children ages 5 through 11 will be required to be vaccinated in order to engage in certain extracurricular activities, such as sports, band, and dance, beginning December 14, 2021.

Citing the Omicron variant and holiday season, in his last days in office, Mayor de Blasio has placed an emphasis on implementing new COVID standards, with December 6th’s expansion following a December 2, 2021 announcement that private school employees, including those working for Catholic Schools and Yeshivas, will be required to get vaccinated.  While there will almost certainly  be legal challenges to the recent orders, employers and business owners should take steps to ensure compliance with the new orders prior to implementation.  We recommend consulting an employment attorney regarding any necessary changes to employee handbooks, policies, and procedures.