New York becomes first U.S. city to order COVID vaccines for restaurants and gyms

NEW YORK, Aug. 3 (Reuters) – New York City will become the first major U.S. city to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination in restaurants, gyms and other businesses, Mayor Bill of Blasio, as the nation grapples with the rapid Delta variant of spreading.

With vaccines widely available, political leaders are fighting this wave with vaccines and masks rather than ordering businesses to shut down and Americans to stay at home like they did last year. (Graph of American cases)

The US government and several states, as well as some hospitals and universities, already require employees to get vaccinated. Tyson Foods (TSN.N) on Tuesday became one of the largest private employers to demand that all workers be immunized to fight the virus that has killed more than 600,000 people nationwide. Read more

New York City policy requires proof of at least one dose and will be enforced from September 13. Like last year’s mask warrants and stay-at-home orders, the plan will likely meet strong resistance.

In France, the imposition by the government of a national health passport proving vaccination has triggered large protests, often dispersed by the police using tear gas.

Government vaccine passports are also very controversial among Americans, especially conservatives.

“It is time for people to see vaccination as literally necessary to live a good, full and healthy life,” de Blasio, a Democrat, said at a press conference.

About 60% of all New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to city data. But some areas, largely poor communities and communities of color, have much lower vaccination rates.

The city’s announcement comes as cases rise nationwide. Florida and Louisiana have become the last hot spots, straining hospitals. (Graph on hospitalizations)

Florida and Louisiana are both reporting record numbers of hospitalized COVID patients, as a doctor warned of the “darkest days” to date. Read more

More than 11,300 patients were hospitalized in Florida on Tuesday, with COVID patients filling 22% of state hospital beds, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. In highly vaccinated Vermont, 0.4% of its hospital beds are occupied by coronavirus patients.

A family dines at a restaurant during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the Manhattan neighborhood of New York City, New York, United States on March 25, 2021. REUTERS / Jeenah Moon

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Louisiana was also struggling with one of the country’s worst epidemics, prompting Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, to order residents to wear masks indoors again.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Los Angeles County nearly quadrupled in the past four weeks to 1,096 on Monday, the public health department said. The percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus also climbed to 6.2%, from 1.3% a month ago, according to department data.

To combat the spread in California, political leaders in eight counties in the San Francisco Bay Area reinstated mandatory indoor mask orders this week. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, asked all state employees late last month to get vaccinated starting August 2 or get tested for COVID-19 at least once a week. Read more

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, took the opposite position. He issued an executive order last week banning schools from requiring face coverings, saying parents should make the decision for their children. Read more

The Sunshine State claimed another grim record with the highest number of COVID-19 pediatric hospitalizations – 138 on Tuesday, more than those recorded in Texas despite its larger population.

DeSantis defended the state’s approach at a press conference on Tuesday.

“We will not close. We will open schools. We are protecting the work of every Floridian in this state. We are protecting small businesses from people,” DeSantis said.

In Arkansas, another state where hospitalizations for COVID-19 have increased, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson said on Wednesday he would ask state lawmakers to provide an exception to a law that bars state governments and locals, including school boards, to require masks.

The private sector, including many large US companies, has also taken action in response to the threat of the Delta variant. Read more

Detroit’s Big Three automakers and the United Auto Workers (UAW) said on Tuesday they would reinstate the requirement to wear masks in all US factories, offices and warehouses from Wednesday, but did not demand that workers are vaccinated. Read more

Big tech companies like Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL.O) and Facebook (FB.O) have said all U.S. employees must be vaccinated to enter offices. Read more

Reporting by Maria Caspani and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Shumaker

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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