New York City’s vaccine mandate in restaurants. I support it.

It’s no secret that Masjib Mania hasn’t been the most active since the start of COVID-19. One thing that has kept me busy since my last update was my move from Connecticut to New York City. I hope that 2022 will enable me to resume food blogging with more regularity, especially now that I live in a location known worldwide for its variety of quality restaurants. Recently, however, NYC has implemented a regulation that will have a unique impact on the restaurant industry: a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. I wholeheartedly support it. Here’s why.

As I sat down to write this blog entry, I took a moment to reread my last post. Most of it held up pretty well (if I do say so myself!), but the closing paragraph was somewhat of a time capsule:

At the time of posting this article, 194,000+ people have died from it in the United States alone. While I have my complaints, my loved ones and I have gotten off relatively easily. I do not usually talk about politics on Masjib Mania, but I feel compelled to end this article by saying that a good amount of this suffering could have been prevented had the current presidential administration reacted more quickly. It goes without saying that I hope the United States has a new president by this time next year, and that an effective vaccine is rolled out as soon as possible.

Where to even begin!? 

Shortly after writing that, I would learn that my great aunt had died of COVID-19. Sadly, she would be far from alone: today, the “194,000+” number has more than tripled with nearly 650,000 dead from the illness. On the positive side, we now have a new president and we have not just one effective vaccine, but instead we have three.

However, merely having access to the vaccine has not meant that all people will want to get it. Although the vaccine has been available since the beginning of the year, at the time of writing only around 55% of people in the United States are fully vaccinated. Research shows that Black adults, Latino adults, and young adults are more likely to have a “wait and see” attitude toward getting the vaccine; Republicans and white Evangelicals are disproportionately opposed to the vaccine altogether.

The New York City government has taken a bold step toward promoting vaccination: requiring proof of vaccination for indoor dining at restaurants, using gyms, going to movie theaters, and other non-essential indoor activities. Although the order took effect on August 16, it did not actually start to be enforced by September 16. It requires people show their physical CDC vaccine card, a scan of the card in the NYC COVID-19 app, or a QR code in the New York State Excelsior pass app.

Some readers may be concerned that not all people have access to the vaccine, which is a problem in too many parts of the United States. It is a very different situation in New York City. Here you can schedule a vaccination visit in your home or apartment. These visits are completely free, and they will not ask about a person’s immigration status. After it’s finished, NYC will even give you the choice of a $100 pre-loaded debit card gift or something from a list of other rewards.

Anecdotally, it’s hard to walk down a street here and not see signs for walk-in vaccination at pharmacies, mobile clinics, or pop-up vaccination sites in subway stations.

The NYC vaccine mandate only requires that people get one shot, unlike San Francisco’s mandate which requires full vaccination. That is admittedly problematic: while the J&J vaccine only needs one shot, both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two. On the plus side, if an unvaccinated individual is turned away from a restaurant or gym, they could theoretically head straight to a walk-in clinic, get the shot, and return within 20 minutes.

Some people have argued that the vaccine mandate is illegal, although that argument is not backed up by legal precedent. Others have attempted to make the case that people unable to be vaccinated will be adversely affected; however, the mandate includes a provision for accommodating such individuals.

I recently spoke to the manager of a bar in Hell’s Kitchen who was concerned that the cost of paying a bouncer to check people’s proof of vaccine would hurt their business. (The bar usually has a bouncer at night, but not during the day.) While I am sympathetic to this concern, nothing would be better for the bottom line of restaurants and bars–and the world!–than getting COVID-19 under control.

Furthermore, let’s maintain perspective. As difficult as it may be to bring a business killed by COVID-19 back to life, it is still possible. It is impossible to bring a human killed by COVID-19 back to life. New York City has had the ability to make vaccine access near universal, and the vaccine mandate is a great way to push as many people as possible toward doing the right thing.

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