The first U.S. city to impose COVID vaccines on restaurants and gyms

The first U.S. city to impose COVID vaccines on restaurants and gyms

 Como declared New York City will become the first major US city to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for customers and employees at restaurants, gyms, and other indoor businesses as the country enter a new phase against the highly contagious delta variant.

In contrast to sudden increases last year and in January, highly effective vaccines are now widely available against the virus that has killed more than 600,000 people in the United States, reducing the need to close businesses and stay home.

The federal government and many states have already required public sector employees to receive the vaccination, as have some hospitals and universities. On Tuesday, Meatpacker Tyson Foods (TSN.N) became one of the largest private-sector employers requiring all workers to be vaccinated. 

New York City policy requires proof of at least one dose and will be in effect starting September 13. Like previous policies on masks and stay-at-home orders, the plan is likely to encounter resistance. In France, a nationwide health passport requirement to prove vaccination led to police using tear gas to disperse protesters.

According to city data, about 60% of all New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. But certain areas, primarily poor communities and communities of color have lower vaccination rates.

The city's announcement comes as cases are rising across the country, with Florida and Louisiana emerging as primary virus hot spots as hospitals squeeze again with an influx of COVID patients. 

Both Florida and Louisiana are reporting record numbers of hospitalized COVID patients, with one doctor warning of the "darkest days" yet. More than 11,300 patients have been hospitalized in Florida as of Tuesday, with COVID patients filling 22% of hospital beds in the state. In highly-vaccinated Vermont, coronavirus patients occupy 0.4% of hospital beds.

The Department of Public Health said that hospital admissions for COVID-19 in Los Angeles County nearly quadrupled in the past four weeks, to 1,096 on Monday. According to department data, the percentage of tests that came back positive for the virus also rose to 6.2%, compared to 1.3% a month ago.

To combat the spread in California, political leaders in eight San Francisco Bay Area counties have reinstated mandatory indoor mask orders in public places as of midnight Tuesday morning. Last month, Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, mandated that all state employees be vaccinated as of August 2 or get tested for COVID-19 at least once a week. 

The Sunshine State claimed another dismal record with the highest number of hospitalizations of children with COVID-19 -- 138 as of Tuesday, more than those recorded in Texas despite being much higher than the latter.

DeSantis doubled down during a press conference Tuesday, defending the state's approach.

"We're not going to close our doors. We're going to open schools. We're protecting the job of every Florida resident in this state. We're protecting people's small businesses."

Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson said he would ask state lawmakers Wednesday to make an exception to a law prohibiting state and local government, including school boards, from requiring people to wear masks.

The private sector, including several major US companies, has also taken steps in response to the variable delta threat.

Detroit's Big Three automakers and the United Auto Workers (UAW) union said Tuesday they will restore mask-wearing requirements in all U.S. factories, offices, and warehouses starting Wednesday but are not asking workers to be vaccinated.

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