Whenever a new policy is announced, there are categories of questions that can be raised about it. One is legality: Is the policy on sound statutory footing? Another is practical: Is it enforceable? Then there are questions of purpose: What problem is this intended to solve, and will it work?
To date, most COVID-19 vaccine mandates - imposed on health-care workers, or by employers on their own employees - easily pass these tests. They have sound legal basis, agencies or companies can generally verify that their own workers are complying, and they have done much to drive up vaccination rates in New York and elsewhere, curbing COVID's death and devastation.
The mayor's latest announcement, a sweeping vaccine mandate for in-person workers at all New York City private businesses with at least two employees, is a different kettle of fish. Despite some initial confusion around the order's underpinnings - stupidly, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the policy before the Health Department order was actually ready - we believe that it is likely legal under localities' expansive powers to protect public health, affirmed by both the Supreme Court and the state's Court of Appeals.
But that still leaves the question of whether it's practical or wise. It's a stretch.
De Blasio can't yet say how it'll be enforced. Businesses were blindsided by the move, despite the fact that they know best whether it'll help or hurt critical efforts to get people back to work. In a city where nearly 90% of adults have received at least one vaccine dose already, and where COVID remains largely under control, de Blasio can't make a pressing public health case, not even when factoring in omicron fears. And what were months and millions of dollars in incentive payments for if de Blasio's end game was just to require everyone get vaccinated?
Perhaps most absurdly, the mandate will go into effect five days before de Blasio hands the reins over to Eric Adams, who may very well ax it. Is there a vaccine for bad planning?