Will Eric Adams Keep N.Y.C.’s Newest Vaccine Mandate?

Will Eric Adams Keep N.Y.C.’s Newest Vaccine Mandate? 1

It was unclear if the incoming mayor, Eric Adams, who is on vacation in Ghana, intended to enforce a vaccine mandate for private employers.

In the lengthy run-up to this year’s New York City mayoral election, an obvious question overshadowed the campaign: How would the victor handle the city’s response to the coronavirus?

For the mayor-elect, Eric Adams, the answer is still not clear. He has both expressed support for vaccine mandates for city employees, and, in November, also said he would revisit them.

On Monday, Mr. Adams had another chance to clarify his position, after the current mayor, Bill de Blasio, announced his intention to mandate that all private employers require their staff be vaccinated by Dec. 27 — five days before he leaves office, and Mr. Adams takes over.

Mr. de Blasio on Monday expressed confidence that Mr. Adams would make similar public health decisions. Yet by day’s end, it remained unclear if Mr. Adams intended to enforce Mr. de Blasio’s edict, or defend it from potential legal challenges.

The mayor-elect, who is on vacation in Ghana, intends to “evaluate this mandate and other Covid strategies when he is in office and make determinations based on science, efficacy and the advice of health professionals,” Mr. Adams’s spokesman, Evan Thies, said.

So even as Mr. de Blasio won ample publicity in advance of his likely run for governor, it remained far from clear what would happen to this private-sector mandate — or Mr. de Blasio’s pandemic policies in general — once he leaves office.

Four members of Mr. Adams’s transition team’s health committee did not respond to requests for comment. A committee contributor, the president of the Latino Commission on AIDS, Guillermo Chacón, encouraged the incoming mayor to keep the mandate in place.

“It’s always hard to balance, but as a mayor, I think you have to always think about the majority,” Mr. Chacón said. “It’s a very difficult and painful virus that we’re facing these days.”

Mr. Thies, who initially declined to answer further questions, released a new statement on Monday evening, saying that “a month is a lifetime during this pandemic, and a lot can change. To say definitely now what the plan is for January would be irresponsible.”

Over the course of the year, Mr. Adams has taken several, sometimes conflicting positions on the wisdom of vaccine mandates in the fight against the coronavirus.

Two days after saying he would revisit vaccine mandates for city workers, Mr. Adams expressed unequivocal support for Mr. de Blasio’s requirement that public indoor venues like theaters and restaurants deny entry to unvaccinated adults. The rule prompted the N.B.A. to bar a star for the Brooklyn Nets, Kyrie Irving, from playing in games held in the city. (The Nets have since indefinitely barred him from practicing or playing with the team.)

Anna Watts for The New York Times

“New York City’s not going to change their rule,” Mr. Adams said.

Part of Mr. Adams’s calculation on whether to support a vaccine mandate for private employers may be shaped by his relationship with business leaders; Mr. Adams has been clear about his desire to run a government that is friendly to business.

In September, he declared that “New York will no longer be anti-business,” in an implicit rebuke of Mr. de Blasio’s often strained relationship with the business sector.

That business sector is of two minds on this latest mandate, which Mr. de Blasio said was the first of its kind in the nation.

Douglas Durst, a major landlord and developer, said he believes private employers should mandate vaccines for their employees, as he has, but not at the government’s behest.

“That’s going to take a lot of regulation and a lot of reporting, and it’s just not necessary,” Mr. Durst said.

Randy Peers, the president and chief executive of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, said the mandate would just exacerbate existing labor shortages and make it even more difficult for employers to recover from the pandemic.

“Small businesses across the board can’t find workers and now, with this requirement, around the holiday time no less, we’re going to basically force employers to let people go,” Mr. Peers said.

But at least one employer took the opposite tack and encouraged Mr. Adams to continue the mandate once he takes office.

Scott Rechler, the chief executive of RXR Realty, touted his own company’s successful vaccination mandate as evidence that the technique works.

“The vaccine has proven to be our biggest line of defense that allows us to safely coexist and move forward without the loss of life and livelihood,” he said. “We mandated it for our teams at all of our development sites back in September for that reason. Initially, there were some people that were against it, but they ultimately came around.”

Whatever Mr. Adams’s thoughts on the matter, the timing of Mr. de Blasio’s announcement suggests that the decision will, in the end, be in Mr. Adams’s hands.

“These are decisions, I think, in the last few days of a mayoralty that really, is the responsibility of our incoming mayor,” said Max Rose, the former congressman who represented Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn and on Monday announced a comeback bid.

Katie Glueck contributed reporting.