FAQs: End of Mask and Vax Mandate

Originally Published : March 6, 2022

Dear HL Clients and Friends,

New York City Mayor Eric Adams will lift the GUEST vaccination requirement for indoor dining and events starting tomorrow, Monday, March 7th.

You may be asking yourself, where does this leave us? In short: aside from the EMPLOYEE vaccine mandate, which continues to be in effect for all NYC, we are entering a world of OPERATOR CHOICE with regard to masking and guest vaccination status.

Here are some questions we’ve been getting that may help guide you in your own decision-making process moving forward:

Hang on, employees need to be vaccinated but there’s no guest requirement?

Correct. The NYC vaccine mandate for employees at all businesses remains in effect. If that seems nonsensical to you then you’re not alone. That said, you must continue to check proof of vaccination for new hires and ensure that your staff is fully vaccinated. There is no booster shot requirement as of now.

What if I want to continue to check guest vaccination status?

You can choose to continue checking vaccine status, but we are advising clients to consider why they would want to.

It is our opinion that if you keep asking for proof of vaccination you need to continue to operate as though the restrictions were never lifted. Keep the masks, the outdoor seating, and accommodations for guests who cannot be vaccinated, as well as accommodations for guests simply do not want the vaccine. It’s possible that continuing to follow the “Key2NYC” regulations could create an appealing climate for older guests or neighborhoods where people still take the pandemic very seriously, but you know your clientele best and you should use that knowledge to direct your next steps.

As we said earlier in this alert, we really are entering a world of operator choice – which is to say, no one can stop you from checking vaccine status, but given the current political climate and the end of the mandate, we expect there to be pushback against businesses that keep restraints in place—especially if you have already experienced pushback. And now that there’s no city or state law to point to in response when an irate guest complains, it places a significant burden on the business to rationalize the decision to keep enforcing old regulations.

You mentioned masks in the last answer. Does anyone still need to wear one?

New York City and the CDC strongly recommend masking in public places and while traveling regardless of vaccination status.

But are masks required?

No, masks are not required. The “Vax or Mask” mandate for New York State and New York City will be behind us as of March 7th, when Mayor Adams lifts the guest vaccine mandate.

Can I still ask my guests and employees to wear masks?

Yes, businesses can still require guests and staff to wear masks. The New York City guidance specifically states that masks are “required where businesses request that they be worn.” As private owners, you have a right to control the environment in your place of business.

Great, so the pandemic is over!

Not so fast, my friend. People can still get COVID and the quarantine and isolation guidance hasn’t changed since the CDC shortened the quarantine period from 10 to five days (if you test negative or are asymptomatic). If employees are sick they should still STAY HOME. There is also a new “Affirmation of Quarantine” which employers may require for anyone applying for COVID Sick Leave – which is still available.

What about the future? Could Key2NYC come back?

There’s always the possibility that new regulations are established, or old ones come back. We recommend that businesses regularly check NYC’s new COVID Alert System. These levels will help you understand what precautions you need to take and how to best protect yourself and others based on each level. We suspect that city regulations will follow changes in the alert level, so keeping an eye on this website could prove to be handy. We hope there will soon be an automated email update when the levels change, too. You can view the alert level site here.

Makes sense. Now what are the odds that city agencies are going to keep asking for Key2NYC documentation?

Listen, we know how this city works. There’s a bit of a trickle-down effect when regulations change. If someone asks to see information that you don’t actively need to collect – like your guest plan, we suggest complying as best you can. We expect there may be some confusion given that the employee mandate hasn’t changed, and you should too. Keep the records you have and put the Key2NYC operating plan somewhere accessible just in case.

This is only a short breakdown of FAQs as we’ve gotten them. If we missed something, or if you have another question, please don’t hesitate to reach out.  As always, we will continue to update you as these guidelines, regulations, rules, etc. change. Keep fighting the good fight.

Sources for Reference
Affirmation of quarantine: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2022/01/Affirmation_Of_Quarantine_011222.pdf
New masking guidelines: https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/imm/covid-19-face-covering-faq.pdf
Updated COVID Sick Leave FAQ: https://paidfamilyleave.ny.gov/new-york-paid-family-leave-covid-19-faqs
Report on Mayor Adams ending Key2NYC (3.4.22): https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/03/04/world/covid-19-tests-cases-vaccine#its-time-to-reopen-our-city-nyc-mayor-lifts-a-school-maskmandate-and-indoor-vaccination-rules
COVID Alert Level site: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/covid/covid-19-alert-levels.page

Of course, please reach out with any questions to [email protected] or chloe.brownstein@helbraunlevey.com

Lee and Chloe