New York City will end its aggressive but contentious coronavirus vaccine mandate for municipal workers, Mayor Eric Adams announced on Monday, signaling a key moment in the city’s long battle against the pandemic.
“With more than 96 percent of city workers and more than 80 percent of New Yorkers having received their primary Covid-19 series and more tools readily available to keep us healthy, this is the right moment for this decision,” Mr. Adams said in a statement.
Starting Friday, Mr. Adams said that vaccination for the coronavirus would become optional for current and prospective city workers. Visitors to city schools will also no longer be required to provide proof of at least one dose of the vaccine to enter.
The vaccine mandate for city workers was set in October 2021 by former Mayor Bill de Blasio and was one of the most aggressive steps in the nation to increase vaccination rates. It prompted hundreds of workers to be fired and a series of lawsuits. Some workers applied for religious exemptions.
Mr. Adams, a moderate Democrat entering his second year in office, has sought to push the city past the pandemic and has ended many of the mandates implemented by Mr. de Blasio. Last year, Mr. Adams ended vaccine mandates for private employers and for indoor dining and ended mask mandates at schools. Last September, Gov. Kathy Hochul ended a mask mandate on subways and buses.
The city said on Monday that more than 331,000 city workers had been fully vaccinated. About 1,780 city workers were terminated for not getting vaccinated; those workers cannot automatically return to their previous positions, but can apply for positions with their former agencies through the normal hiring process, city officials said.
As the city nears the third anniversary of the pandemic, coronavirus cases have been high over the winter as many New Yorkers got infected, some for a second or third time. In early January, more than 1,900 people were hospitalized with the virus in the city, according to state data. Cases have dropped recently; now there are about 965 people hospitalized. There are still about 15 deaths per day.
The city’s health commissioner, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, said that vaccine mandates had been an important tool, but that the city was now leaving the “emergency phase of the pandemic.”
“It’s clear these mandates saved lives and were absolutely necessary to meet the moment,” he said.