By STEVE BITTENBENDER
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams announced Thursday he will continue the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private employers ordered by outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio that took effect earlier this week.
Mr. Adams will take over as mayor early Saturday morning, at the start of the new year. He stressed he does not want to take a “heavy-handed” approach with businesses in terms of enforcement. However, he vowed to fine businesses that refused to comply.
“COVID has traumatized our financial base, restaurants, small businesses, corporations,” he told reporters Thursday morning. “I think (with) the right partnership, with what we are doing now by speaking with our large businesses and our small businesses, we are going to receive the level of cooperation we need to ensure that we get the compliance that we need.”
When Mayor de Blasio announced the vaccine mandate on national television earlier this month, it caught many in the business community off guard. He was criticized for not communicating with the business community first about the order, which has impacted about 185,000 companies in the city.
The mayor-elect was hesitant to criticize the outgoing mayor Thursday. Mr. Adams said he believed Mayor de Blasio did a good job handling the issue, especially since the omicron variant has led to record numbers of cases in the city less than a month after the first local case of the variant was identified.
The one issue Mr. Adams felt could have been handled better was communicating with key stakeholders. He told reporters he alerted business leaders before his Thursday morning press conference about his decision to keep the mandate in place.
Another part of Mr. Adams’ transition into the mayor’s office is to keep Dr. Dave Chokshi on as the city’s health and mental hygiene commissioner through March.
Dr. Chokshi told reporters Thursday the city will not manage the pandemic passively, especially since he said vaccinations and booster shots help mitigate the spread of the virus.
“We should plan and prepare for a challenging few weeks,” he said. “Certainly, you know, through January with respect to what we’re seeing for the winter surge due to omicron.”