And even though the Delta variant is more transmissible, the city’s Covid testing program in public schools is less rigorous than last year’s. This year, only 10 percent of unvaccinated students will be tested every other week.
The mandates may be working
New York City was the first major American city to announce widespread indoor vaccination mandates for businesses. Since Aug. 17, all customers over age 12 and staff members have had to be vaccinated to participate in a variety of indoor activities, including dining, gyms, museums and movie theaters. City enforcement, however, will not begin until Monday, and some businesses are waiting until then to implement the rule.
Restaurants already asking for proof of vaccination report a variety of responses from guests.
“Some restaurants are saying it hasn’t been an issue, and they even have new customers who are now more comfortable because of the vaccine requirement,” said Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, a restaurant industry group. “Others say their business is down and they’re turning people away, or that customers aren’t showing up like they used to.”
Gyms had already been asking for vaccination status, because vaccinated customers are allowed to work out without having to wear masks. Keith Worts, the chief executive officer of Crunch Signature, which has 28 gyms in the city, said that his gyms have been busy uploading the vaccination information of members into the computer system for the past three weeks, and will begin excluding unvaccinated members on Monday.
He said that the vast majority of members and staffers were vaccinated and that there had even been a small bump in memberships among those who said the policy makes them feel safer.
Some experts cautioned that the city’s decision to forgo an indoor mask mandate, including for high-risk settings like gyms, may blunt the effectiveness of its vaccination mandate, which only requires one dose of a two-dose vaccine. Delta can spread among vaccinated people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though the risk is lower, and they are far less likely to get severely ill from the disease.
“Even if you have a fully vaccinated gym population, it doesn’t mean that you can go to the gym and not worry about getting infected, because it is absolutely going to happen,” Dr. Nash said.
“People view the vaccines as something that will prevent transmission of the virus, because that’s how they were pitched to us,” he said. “But I think what we have seen is that they prevent against severe disease and death. They don’t necessarily block against transmission of the virus.”