BREAKING: De Blasio imposes vaccine mandates on private-sector employers

AP Photo/John Minchillo

Two questions immediately arise, and the first comes from the lack of immediacy in the order. Bill de Blasio imposed a vaccine mandate for all New York City employers, private and public, but it won’t go into effect for … another three weeks?

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a sweeping Covid vaccine mandate for all private employers in New York City on Monday morning to combat the spread of the Omicron variant.

Mr. de Blasio said the aggressive measure, which takes effect Dec. 27 and which he described as the first of its kind in the nation, was needed as a “pre-emptive strike” to stall another wave of coronavirus cases and help reduce transmission during the winter months and holiday gatherings.

“Omicron is here, and it looks like it’s very transmissible,” he said in an interview on MSNBC. “The timing is horrible with the winter months.”

If it’s here and it’s that transmissible — both probably true — then why wait to impose it for three weeks? The vaccines have been available for almost exactly a year now. It’s not as if we have a short supply, either; vaccines have been aging on shelves as demand has not been as high as anticipated, especially for boosters.

The timing is horrible in another way, too:

Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat with less than a month left in office, said he was confident the new mandate would survive any legal challenges.

“We are confident because it’s universal,” he said of the mandate.

So the mandate will go into effect in the last few days of de Blasio’s mayoral term? Isn’t that convenient! De Blasio gets to impose a legally questionable and politically explosive mandate without any political accountability for it.

This almost looks like de Blasio intends this as a poison pill for his successor Eric Adams. Adams doesn’t support de Blasio’s vaccine mandate on city workers, mainly for his lack of cooperation with their unions, and pledged a month ago to “revisit” it once Adams took office:

Mayor-elect Eric Adams vowed to “revisit” the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for municipal workers when he takes office and reach a “resolution” on the matter, as he took an election victory lap Wednesday morning.

During a series of media appearances the day after he handily beat Republican opponent Curtis Sliwa, the Democrat also repeatedly promised he wouldn’t step on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s toes regarding the controversial jab order.

“We need to revisit how we are going to address the vaccine mandates. Now, I stated I did not want to Monday-morning-quarterback the mayor. This is his time to be the man, he has to make the decisions,” Adams said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” …

“I hope the mayor — and I am encouraging him to do that — to sit down with unions and come to a resolution,” Adams, the current Brooklyn borough president, said on CNN’s “New Day.” “And if he doesn’t, if this is still going to January, I’m going to sit down with them and we’re going to get this resolved.”

“If you know when you sit down at the table that no matter what happens, you’re going to not have to deal with what the current mayor stated, that is unfair,” he explained of his reluctance to second-guess de Blasio. “I would not want someone to do that to me as a man, and I’m not going to do it to this man. Here’s an opportunity for him to bring about a resolution and when I inherit this situation, I’m going to bring about a resolution.”

The timing on this mandate is pretty suspicious with this context in mind. Why not impose it immediately, not three weeks down the line? It almost appears as if December 27 might be the last effective date that de Blasio could choose and still sneak it into the end of his term, given the holidays and the lack of personnel on duty in the days afterward.

What about the legality of this order on the private sector? The Daily News sounds a little skeptical:

De Blasio said he is confident the mandate would withstand legal challenges although President Biden’s less-stringent mandate has been blocked by courts.

The mayor framed the mandate as a needed bulwark against the fast-spreading omicron variant, especially as the weather turns colder and the end-of-year holidays and group gatherings increase.

Several cases of omicron have already been identified in the city. Although city workers are seeking to trace possible contacts of those who have tested positive for the new variant, de Blasio said NYC should assume omicron is already spreading widely here.

Biden’s problem in the courts has to do with jurisdiction and the lack of such for the federal government. State and local governments have more jurisdiction for public-health maintenance measures, especially in an emergency. However, NYC will have more troubles in pursuing this mandate on private-sector companies, especially if they cite Omicron as the necessity. The city will have to prove that the vaccines not only stop Omicron infections, which is not yet known, but also Omicron transmissions — and the data thus far suggest it doesn’t, at least not entirely. Vaccinated individuals can and have passed Omicron to others; those vaccinated have only suffered mild infections, but transmission occurred nonetheless.

The courts will tie this up for the rest of de Blasio’s term, of course. It will shortly become Adams’ headache, and it certainly looks like that was de Blasio’s main purpose in issuing this mandate.