With the delta variant of the virus pushing the case number up, the mayor said it was time to take further steps to enhance the COVID safety protocols.
"This is about our recovery. This is about what we need to do to bring back New York City," de Blasio said. "If someone is unvaccinated, unfortunately, they pose a threat to themselves but they also have a greater chance of spreading the disease."
Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said this is not just about beating COVID, it's specifically about defeating the delta variant.
"In so many cases over the past 18 months, the helpers have been city staff, whether it's foster care workers, first responders, or teachers," Chokshi said. "We need these individuals to continue to serve and to do so in the safest way possible."
The new mandate includes all members of the FDNY, NYPD, and Department of Education. The United Federation of Teachers released a statement in support of the city's new approach. However, the president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association is voicing concern.
"The position of the UFA has always been pro-vaccine but we stand firm that a non-FDA-approved vaccination is a personal choice," UFA President Andrew Ansbros said.
"We still stand against any mandates to vaccinate New York City firefighters against their wills."
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The enhanced COVID safety protocol will take effect on Sept. 13, the first full day of the school year. Workers in congregate residential centers like foster care homes and other settings will be required to get vaccinated or tested earlier starting Aug. 16.
Unvaccinated city staff will be required to wear a mask indoors. City workers can forgo the face mask only with proof of vaccination.
"We will have to, unfortunately, be very tough if a city government employee does not wear a mask indoors," de Blasio said. "Unfortunately, there will have to be consequences."
The rule is expected to affect about 340,000 city employees, making the city one of the largest employers in the U.S. to take such action.
Earlier this month, de Blasio announced the COVID safety protocol for health workers. Beginning Aug. 2, all NYC Health and Hospitals employees and all clinical workers for the Department of Health must be vaccinated or get tested weekly. Those who refuse would be suspended without pay.
New York-Presbyterian Hospital system already requires its employees to get their first shots by Sept. 1.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is also ramping up the push to get more people in New York vaccinated. He is giving millions of dollars to community-based groups to reach out to New Yorkers living in ZIP codes with high infection rates and low vaccination rates. These include neighborhoods in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. The governor said he wants residents to overcome "vaccine hesitancy" before it is too late.
"If we do not make progress on vaccinating that unvaccinated population — 25%, with the delta variant, you are going to see the numbers go up and we are going to lose lives," Cuomo said. "It will be disruptive and we cannot let that happen."
The highly infectious delta variant is by far the most commonly found strain of the virus, representing nearly 60% of all tested positive samples in the city, up from just a quarter of all tested positive samples just two weeks ago.
The rate of vaccination of all adults in New York City is 71% with at least one dose.
With The Associated Press.