Visitors to New York City museums will now be required to show proof of vaccination.
The new rule, which applies to both employees and leisurers at institutions such as art museums, concert halls, aquariums, gyms, movie theaters, and zoos, will be covered by the Key to NYC Pass, which regulates access to indoor facilities.
“You’ll have the key. You can open the door,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference. “But if you’re un-vaccinated, unfortunately, you will not be able to participate in many things.”
The mayor hopes the vaccine mandate will encourage New Yorkers to get the shot and fight the spread of the coronavirus Delta variant. (Other efforts to encourage New Yorkers to get vaccinated include $100 payments in exchange for getting the shot at a city-run site.)
The city’s vaccine mandate will be implemented with a mayoral executive order and a health commissioner’s order, set to be signed today. Vaccinated individuals will be able to confirm their vaccinated status with their vaccination card, the NYC COVID SAFE app, or the state’s Excelsior app. The regulations go into effect on August 17, with enforcement beginning after Labor Day, on September 13.
“We applaud this mandate being put in place as a move that could protect the arts from being forced to close again due to COVID,” said Charles Segars, CEO of Ovation TV and founder of the arts advocacy coalition Stand for the Arts in an email to Artnet News. “Having guidance from the government during a major crisis takes the onus off of arts organizations to make these difficult decisions and potentially alienate patrons.”
“We are wholly supportive of the city’s efforts to encourage vaccines for visitors and staff,” Kenneth Weine, chief communications officer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, told Artnet News in an email. “The Met has been open without interruption for now a year during the pandemic—and keeping staff and visitors safe is our top priority.” He added: “the mayor is exactly right that the only route to continued progress is higher vaccination rates.”
New York’s vaccine mandate for certain indoor activities, announced on August 3, was the first in the nation and follows similar requirements for indoor activities in France and Italy.
Other cities have begun to follow De Blasio’s lead. San Francisco will require vaccination to patronize restaurants, bars, gyms, and entertainment venues as of August 20. In New Orleans, visitors to restaurants, bars, and other indoor venues will need to show records of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test beginning August 23.
Despite new federal guidance that vaccinated individuals should return to wearing masks indoors due to rising COVID levels, both De Blasio and outgoing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have stopped short short of reinstating a mask mandate. Instead, the vaccine is seen as the most important tool in fighting the pandemic.
“We’ve got to defeat the Delta variant,” De Blasio said at a press conference today. “It can be done with vaccination. The whole key is vaccination.”
Segars hopes that a nationwide vaccine mandate is on its way.
“We again call on the Biden Administration to establish a Secretary of Arts and Culture who can provide this kind of guidance at the federal level and give all states a clear-cut path to follow for arts re-openings,” he said. “We need to protect all local arts institutions across the country, not just the ones in New York City.”