As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 lands in New York, New York officials are increasingly concerned about public safety. Governor Kathy Hochul has instituted a new mask mandate statewide, requiring all indoor businesses to enforce proof of full vaccination and mask-wearing. A full vaccination status requires two weeks after the second shot for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, or after the one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a similar mandate, mandating that all private-sector workers are fully vaccinated starting Dec. 27th with vaccine proof required indoors for anyone 12 and older, and for anyone 5 to 11 for indoor dining, fitness, and entertainment starting December 27th.
Restaurant owners have reported business slowing, potentially because of the rising COVID-19 cases and increasingly cold weather. They have also indicated a need for continued support from the government to survive.
NYC Hospitality Alliance executive director Andrew Rigie expressed concern over the mandates, telling NBC: “Public health and safety is paramount, but Mayor de Blasio’s announced expansions to the Key to NYC vaccine mandate pose additional challenges for an already beleaguered restaurant industry in need of tourism support and revenues this holiday season. U.S. families visiting New York City for scheduled holiday vacations may not be able to meet the vaccination requirements for children or themselves in time, and children aged 5-11 across the globe aren’t universally authorized to get vaccinated.”
Omicron is projected to cause a similar downtick in the restaurant business as happened with the delta wave, particularly impacting restaurants that were already financially struggling or do not offer outdoor dining or takeout options. Reservations are still down for in-restaurant dining compared to 2019 according to OpenTable, and lunch service-dependent restaurants struggle because only ⅓ of office workers have returned to their physical offices. The hospitality workforce still faces a shortage.
Mayor-elect Eric Adams will take office on January 1, 2022, and has the authority to continue, expand, or repeal the mandates set in place by de Blasio.