Is NYC right to expand COVID mandate to private sector and children 5-11 in public?

Richard Drew / AP

Fact Box

  • Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on December 6, 2021, a COVID mandate for private sector employees and anyone 12 and up who dines or works out indoors, as well as children five to 11. 
  • On November 26, 2021, the World Health Organization announced a new COVID variant, Omicron (B.1.1.529), first reported from South Africa on November 24, 2021. Delta was the previous COVID variant. 
  • As of December 6, 2021, 68.9% of the population of New York has been fully vaccinated, while 79.1% have had at least one dose. 
  • President Biden announced a federally-imposed vaccine mandate on September 9, 2021 for over 80 million private sector and federal American workers. 
  • Johns Hopkins research shows COVID spikes nationwide have been rising at a higher rate than before the vaccines were available despite more than half the country being fully vaccinated.

Curtice (No)

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private-sector workers and children ages 5 to 11. He claimed this as a 'pre-emptive strike' against the Omicron variant, which as data show, has reportedly primarily infected fully vaccinated individuals to date.

First, as has been well established, vaccinated individuals can still get and transmit any variation of the virus. Granted, it may reduce some of the severe symptoms, but based on what is known now, the Omicron variant has mild symptoms already. The Biden administration has been thwarted at every turn by judges in various jurisdictions, putting on hold a federal employer vaccine mandate, including some healthcare workers. De Blasio's similar mandate will no doubt meet the same fate in court.

This will also negatively affect employment and businesses generally, further hurting New York City's already struggling job market. According to the New York State Department of Labor, New York City's unemployment rate stood at 9.4% in October.

As for children, the risk of getting or spreading COVID remains low. According to a study in England, 251 children under 18 were admitted to England's ICUs between Mach 2020 and March 2021. Further, the COVID death rate in England is two in one million. These numbers are not unique to England as we have seen the dangers of COVID for children are minimal worldwide. 

Yet, in addition to New York's new vaccine mandate for children, we have seen countless decisions—closed schools, remote learning, mask mandates, social isolation—all of which will have negative consequences for these children for years to come. 

Tyler (Yes) 

New York mayor Bill de Blasio's decision to mandate vaccines for private companies is in good measure. While the city is loosening certain restrictions, other measures must be enforced. The Omicron variant is generating a great deal of concern centered around the uncertainty of the strain's effects. Scientists believe that being previously infected with coronavirus offers little to no protection from the Omicron variant. In South Africa, the strain has been traveling twice as fast as the Delta variant did. Enforcing mandates before the variant strikes the nation in full force is a solid preventative measure to protect residents before things get out of hand.

The holidays will cause an influx of people gathering and college students returning home. In the two weeks following the Thanksgiving of 2020, COVID cases rose by 20% in the United States. People becoming more comfortable in these new times and slowing of health restrictions can present real issues. Enforcing new regulations can be an effective manner of taming the spread of this deadly virus. 

Now that vaccines are approved for children, the same rules apply to them. On October 29th, the FDA approved Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 through 11. In accordance with the short notice, New York only requires that children have received one dose of the vaccine. This can prevent the spread of the virus when these children return to school after gathering with their families from various locations.

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