Acknowledging he doesn’t have the legal authority to mandate private businesses enforce a vaccinated-only policy, Cuomo has nevertheless urged New York businesses to only serve the vaccinated – and insisted restaurants, bars and stores should refuse service to those who have not received the jab.
“Go to vaccine-only admission,” Cuomo urged at a Monday press conference, hinting to bars and restaurants that “I believe it is in your best business interests to run a vaccine-only establishment.”
Noting that hospitalizations with Covid-19 had doubled in the preceding month, he blamed the Delta variant for the uptick, implying the unvaccinated were to blame for spreading it. Delta is believed to be significantly more contagious than previous incarnations of the coronavirus.
Many on social media wondered how businesses that turned away the unvaccinated for refusing to, in effect, “show their papers” would get away with what – if practiced against any other social group – would be considered discrimination. New York, like the rest of the US, is obliged to offer citizens equal protection under the law. “Segregation in our lifetime…wow!” marveled one user.
Others reminded Cuomo that New York’s ailing businesses – thousands of which shut down for good under the governor’s punishing economic response to Covid-19 – can’t exactly afford to be picky about their customers.
While Cuomo appeared to believe his office lacks legal standing to force vaccines on state employees, a legal opinion published last week by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel argued both public agencies and private businesses may be permitted to mandate the jabs, despite the fact that they are not yet fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The lack of FDA approval has been a sticking point for many in their decision (or lack thereof) to force vaccines on their employees, with some fearing legal liability and others simply wanting the peace of mind that would come with full approval.
However, this new legal opinion may be a game changer for offices like Cuomo’s. The governor has already required all state employees either be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing by September 13 (and earlier for some workers), but given the tone of his remarks, it appears he would just as soon jettison the testing option and switch to full mandate – assuming he can.
The New York governor has long called for harsh treatment for the unvaccinated, suggesting last month that they be “put into cars” and driven to vaccination sites after being “convinced” to go by officials.
He launched a $15 million campaign to target those New Yorkers who had not yet received the jab as of last month, even as the state boasted one of the highest vaccination rates in the nation. As of Monday, 75.4% of adults in New York have had at least one dose of the vaccine, and 68.6% are fully vaccinated.
Cuomo is hardly the only one to call for a societal-level shunning of the unvaccinated, either. National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins made it clear on Sunday that he supports taking such a policy national, telling CNN he approved of using mandates as a tool to “encourage reluctant folks to get vaccinated because they’ll want to be a part of these public events.”
Last week, CNN anchor Don Lemon even argued that unvaccinated people shouldn’t be permitted in supermarkets, though recent data has revealed that vaccinated individuals appear to be as susceptible to Covid-19 infection as their unvaccinated peers; the illness so far seems to be less severe in those who received the jabs.
Plenty of businesses have already taken Cuomo’s advice and declared the unvaccinated persona non grata. Danny Meyer, owner of the popular Shake Shack chain of restaurants, made waves over the weekend when he declared the unvaxxed were not welcome at his restaurant chains, leading some to call for a boycott.
Many have warned of the two-tiered society that governments seem determined to create, pointing to the “vaccine passports” being adopted against popular will in countries like France and Italy as a speedy route to more discrimination.
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