Mayor Bill de Blasio insisted Monday that his private-sector COVID-19 vaccine mandate will yield few penalties for Big Apple businesses, declaring “we’re not trying to do gotcha” on the first day of the policy taking effect.
During a virtual press briefing, the outgoing mayor explained that city inspectors will adopt a teaching-first approach that prompts “rare” fines, comparing the strategy to City Hall’s enforcement of the indoor setting vaccine requirement, which produced few fines.
“We will give a penalty if someone flatly refuses, but that’s very rare. So our inspectors will be out there energetically but with the goal — educate and correct — [and] ideally avoid penalties,” he said.
While noting businesses should expect inspections, de Blasio stressed that only flagrant, professed rule-breakers will be assessed fines by workers from the city Department of Health and other agencies.
City enforcement of the coronavirus inoculation rule will be carried out with “an attitude of ‘Let’s make sure things are working for everyone’s health and safety,’ we’re not trying to do gotcha,” said de Blasio, whose term ends after Friday.
“We’re trying to make sure everything is moving forward,” the mayor said. “If the inspectors go and a business says, ‘I absolutely, positively refuse’? Of course they’re going to get a fine.”
“If someone refuses, of course there’s penalties, but very, very few people do, is our experience with the really substantial body of work we already have,” he added, referring to the “Key to NYC” indoor-venue proof-of-inoculation requirement.
The controversial regulation, announced Dec. 6, specifies that employers “may not allow any unvaccinated workers to come to their workplace,” according to guidelines released earlier this month.
Fines for non-compliant businesses start at $1,000, and rise for repeat offenders, City Hall’s provisions state. Mayor-elect Eric Adams, who takes office Jan 1., has not stated definitively if he will continue enforcement of de Blasio’s policy.
De Blasio’s municipal worker vaccine mandate, announced in October, has been in effect since the beginning of November.
Meanwhile, de Blasio admitted in response to a question from The Post that some business owners with whom he’s spoken are still unsure about the specifics of the new requirement.
“I think, first of all, they have wanted to know how inspections would work, exactly what we’re talking about here and we’ve reassured the goal is to get to a positive outcome,” he said. “There’s been concern about making sure that they understood what was required, how to go about it.”
Starting Monday, private employers in the five boroughs are required to sign a form that affirms compliance with the mandate, and display it in a “public-facing location” at the work site.
The one-page form includes the name and address of the business, as well as a date and signature from the business owner attesting, “I affirm that I have read the December 13, 2021 Order of the New York City Commissioner of Health requiring vaccination of workers and that my workplace is in compliance with the Order.”