De Blasio Vaccine Mandate Could Be Opening Shot in Governor’s Race

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The New York Sun

The way to look at Mayor de Blasio’s proposed vaccine mandate for the Big Apple’s private sector is as an omen — that he’s going to enter the gubernatorial race.

After all, with national vaccine mandates proposed by President Biden on hold in court and legal challenges expected here — not to mention Mayor-elect Adams’s lukewarm response — it’s unlikely the mandate will actually go into effect any time soon.

It’s more plausible to see the mandate not as a constructive public health measure but as an opening salvo in Mr. de Blasio’s campaign for governor.

“We in New York City have decided to use a preemptive strike,” Mr. de Blasio said on “Morning Joe” Monday, presenting himself as a crusader for public safety, “to really do something bold to stop the further growth of Covid and the dangers it’s causing to all of us.”

His proposal follows remarks by Attorney General Letitia James, a declared gubernatorial candidate, that she favored a statewide mask mandate.

“We can do better in the state of New York. We should issue a mask mandate. We should roll out census workers to go door to door. Individuals who are living in public transportation deserts, we should have mobile vans,” Ms. James said Thursday on NY1’s “Inside City Hall.”

Ms. James’s suggestion came the same day Governor Hochul announced she didn’t see the need for additional statewide mandates against Covid-19 despite the emergence of the Omicron variant. “We don’t need that one size fits all approach,” Ms. Hochul said.

The Empire State already imposed a health care employee vaccine mandate, which the riders of the Second Circuit in November allowed to go into effect.

Ms. James and Mr. de Blasio jostling for position in contrast with Ms. Hochul follows the findings of a recent Siena College poll showing large majorities of New Yorkers favor vaccine and mask mandates.

The Siena poll found 69 percent of voters “support public schools requiring teachers and staff to be vaccinated” and 66 percent favor “businesses like gyms and restaurants requiring customers to show vaccination proof.”

Doubtless, Mr. de Blasio and his advisers also noticed that in Siena’s poll 65 percent favor “employers requiring employees to be vaccinated.”

Touting the mandate as a “first in the nation measure,” Mr. De Blasio said the city’s health commissioner will soon announce details “for private sector employers across the board. All private sector employers in New York City will be covered by this vaccine mandate as of December 27th.”

“You can bet your bippy” there will be a court fight over the mandate, legal analyst Andrew Lieb told WINS. He said that Supreme Court precedent dating back to 1905’s Jacobson v. Massachusetts gave local governments the green light to require vaccination.

Mr. Lieb added that there was uncertainty over whether New York’s health commissioner was the proper authority to issue such a mandate here.

A similar question about regulatory overreach arose during the administration of Mayor Bloomberg, when an attempt to tax sugary sodas ran afoul of the courts.

“Arbitrary and capricious,” a state supreme court judge, Milton Tingling, called the soda ban in 2013. He added that the ban exceeded the health department’s authority under the city charter, a violation that “has the potential to be more troubling than sugar-sweetened beverages.”

The state’s highest court later upheld Judge Tingling’s ruling.

Meanwhile, Mr. Biden’s efforts to impose vaccine mandates are on hold pending court action. The riders of the Sixth Circuit cited “grave statutory and constitutional issues” with a proposed regulation requiring vaccination at companies with more than 100 employees.

Another proposed Biden administration rule mandating vaccination for health workers nationwide was also paused by federal judges following lawsuits by states.

Whether Mr. de Blasio’s vaccine requirement will pass muster in the courts is another question, though he is on firmer ground because of the Supreme Court precedent allowing local governments to require vaccines during epidemics.

A more immediate threat to Mr. de Blasio’s proposal is the unenthusiastic response by Mr. Adams, whose spokesman, Evan Thies, merely said the mayor-elect “will evaluate this mandate and other Covid strategies when he is in office.”

The incoming mayor, whose term begins January 1, will then “make determinations based on science, efficacy, and the advice of health professionals,” Mr. Thies added.

The campaign debts Mr. de Blasio has accumulated are another consideration he is no doubt weighing as he considers a race for governor.

Mr. de Blasio hasn’t paid back city taxpayers for almost $320,000 in security expenses he racked up during his ill-fated campaign for president in 2020, the city Department of Investigation reported last month.

The report noted the “use of NYPD resources for political purposes,” and said Mr. de Blasio “has not reimbursed the City for these expenses, either personally or through his campaign.”

Mr. de Blasio’s campaign and political action committees are also in debt to the tune of $185,000, the New York Post has reported.

As Mr. de Blasio mulls how to retire these debts and repay city taxpayers, his posture as the staunchest advocate for mandatory vaccination in the Democratic gubernatorial field may give his political fundraising efforts a much-needed shot in the arm.


Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons.

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