In response to rising cases of the Covid Delta variant, last week the CDC updated their guidelines encouraging vaccinated individuals to once again wear masks in public indoor spaces. Governor Cuomo is now following suit, and strongly recommending that all private businesses in the state - including NYC restaurants and bars - limit admission to people who are vaccinated. He explained his thinking in a press conference on Monday morning.
In a separate session just 30 minutes after the governor’s, Mayor de Blasio said that he “affirms and supports all the businesses that are putting [in] whatever type of vaccine mandate works for them.” The mayor then referenced Danny Meyer’s announcement last week on CNBC requiring all new hires, current employees, and indoor diners at Union Square Hospitality Group restaurants (which do not include Shake Shack) to provide proof of vaccination status.
USHG is far from the first NYC hospitality operation to announce a proof of vaccination policy for diners - although few have communicated policies for restaurant staff. Back in late May, Llama San, Diner, and Jolene were some of the earliest restaurants to ask indoor diners for proof of a negative Covid test or vaccination. In the past week, places like Dame in Greenwich Village and Nowadays in Ridgewood have emailed patrons about similar vaccine requirements. As of Saturday, July 31st, Kindred and Ruffian in the East Village have shut down indoor operations entirely.
The governor and mayor are now using these restaurants’ proof-of-vaccination policies as a larger incentive for New Yorkers to get vaccinated. In his press conference on Monday, Mayor de Blasio said, “Go get vaccinated so you can fully participate in what this city has to offer, because that’s where things are going.”
And yet, no official city-wide mask or dining-related vaccine mandates have been announced.
According to the NY State’s Department Of Health data, New York’s Covid hospitalizations have doubled across the state in the past month, during reported cases have increased by four times.
In his own announcement on Monday morning, it appeared that Governor Cuomo was teeing up the mayor to instate an official NYC mask mandate. He repeatedly emphasized that, at this stage, policy changes should be implemented on a local level, adding, “A mask policy isn’t going to be enough, I think we’re going to have to talk about a vaccination policy.”
Even still, de Blasio only proceeded to recommend indoor masking for all New Yorkers as opposed to creating a firm mandate. When asked why not announce an official mandate for masking, de Blasio said, “The CDC recommended [mask wearing indoors] and we are recommending [it]. We’re tracking with the exact language of the CDC, just as New Jersey and Connecticut have done.”
The mayor admitted that he had not had been in touch with the governor in regards to the strategic roll-out of masking policies. “No conversation. We’re going to look at all the different inputs...most importantly we’re going to be led by data and science.”
The CDC’s updated guidance states that fully vaccinated people should wear masks in public indoor settings in areas of the country with “substantial or high transmission.” According to the CDC’s Covid data tracker by county, New York, Kings, Richmond, and Bronx counties all report high transmission zones (Queens county falls under substantial transmission). These latest CDC guidelines were updated in part because of a Massachusetts-based study showing that vaccinated individuals can catch and transmit the Delta variant - although the risk of transmission and the severity of illness are significantly lower than those who are unvaccinated.
So far 75.4% of all adults across the state of New York have received at least one vaccine shot. 3.5 million New York state residents remain unvaccinated.
Toward the end of his press conference, de Blasio noted, “We’ll be making additional announcements.” As for us, we’ll continue to update you with any restaurant-related policy changes ahead.