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Excelsior vaccine passport
Photograph: Courtesy Governor Andrew Cuomo's Office

Here's where you need to show proof of vaccination in NYC

The "Key to NYC" makes proof of vaccination your "key" to "unlock" most of what NYC offers.

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Written by
Shaye Weaver
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Starting today, New Yorkers must provide proof of vaccination to enjoy indoor entertainment, indoor dining and indoor fitness.

NYC's new vaccination mandate is called the "Key to NYC" and essentially makes proof of vaccination your "key" to "unlock" most of what NYC offers. It also locks the unvaccinated out of entertainment venues, restaurants and gym classes (unless events, dining and classes are available outdoors.)

The mandate comes after an uptick in COVID-19 Delta variant cases and hospitalizations.

RECOMMENDED:  Mayor de Blasio says vaccinated New Yorkers should now wear masks inside

There's a lot to unpack with the mandate, so we've broken it down to answer your most pressing questions. 

Here's all you need to know about the new vaccination mandate in NYC and where it applies:

Indoor entertainment

  • Movie theaters
  • Music and concert venues
  • Museums & galleries
  • Aquariums & zoos
  • Professional sports arenas
  • Indoor stadiums
  • Convention centers
  • Exhibition hallsPerforming arts theaters
  • Bowling alleys
  • Arcades
  • Pool & billiard halls
  • Recreational game centers
  • Adult entertainment
  • Indoor play areas

Indoor dining

  • Restaurants
  • Catering halls
  • Hotel banquet rooms
  • Bars
  • Nightclubs
  • Cafeterias
  • Grocery stores with indoor dining
  • Coffee shops
  • Fast food/quick service with indoor dining

Indoor fitness

  • Gyms
  • Fitness centers
  • Fitness classes
  • Pools
  • Indoor studios
  • Dance studios

What places are exempt from this?

  • Residential buildings
  • Office buildings
  • Childcare programs
  • Pre-K through grade 12 public and non-public schools and programs
  • Senior centers
  • Churches hosting Sunday potlucks or similar events
  • Community centers
  • Charitable food services
  • Catering at someone’s home

Why is the vaccination mandate necessary?

According to the city's mandate, doing this at the types of establishments that residents frequent will incentivize vaccinations thereby "increasing the city's vaccination rates and saving lives." It cites a study by Yale University that NYC's vaccination campaign was estimated to have prevented about 250,000 COVID-19 cases, 44,000 hospitalizations and 8,300 deaths from COVID-19 infection since the start of vaccination through July 1.

That being said, the number of prevented cases, hospitalizations and death has risen since then—between January 1, 2021, and June 15, 2021, over 98% of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 infection involved those who were not fully vaccinated;

"New York City has one mission: defeat the delta variant and build a recovery for all of us,” de Blasio said on Monday. "The Key to NYC sends a powerful message that vaccination will unlock our city’s potential, and we’ll stop at nothing to save lives and keep New Yorkers safe."

Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi added that vaccination "makes every activity safer and this is a common-sense precaution to keep patrons of gyms, restaurants and indoor entertainment healthy."

What if you are eating outdoors or just getting take-out?

You do not need to show proof of vaccination.

Do you still have to wear a mask indoors if everyone is vaccinated?

It is still recommended that you do unless you know that everyone around you is vaccinated.

New York City has stopped short of mandating indoor mask-wearing, however, the mayor did strongly recommend it. It is also up to respective businesses and organizations whether they require them from visitors and guests.

The recommendation comes almost a week after the CDC issued its guidance that "fully vaccinated persons wear masks in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission." De Blasio said that the city's recommendation comes after more data was released on Friday from the CDC.

"Vaccinations are the No. 1 most powerful weapon against Covid so far," he said. "If you don't know people around you or aren't sure if they are vaccinated or not, it is crucial to wear a mask."

How do you show proof of vaccination?

You can use the following:

  • A photo or hard copy of their CDC vaccination card
  • NYC COVID Safe App
  • New York State Excelsior App
  • Official vaccine record

What if you got vaccinated outside of the U.S.?

That's OK—a photo or hard copy of an official vaccination record of a vaccine administered outside the U.S. is acceptable for one of the following vaccines: AstraZeneca/SK Bioscience, Serum Institute of India/COVISHIELD and Vaxzevria, Sinopharm, or Sinovac.

Do you need both shots under the vaccination mandate?

Although controversial, you only need to have your first shot to be admitted.

Do you have to show ID, too, under the vaccination mandate?

Yes, businesses are required to check the ID of those who look 18 or older and may do so for those who look 12 or older. This is to help stop fraud.

So, what happens if you use a fake vaccine card?

A new state bill says that falsifying a digital record of a COVID-19 vaccine constitutes computer tampering in the third degree, a class E felony that’s punishable by up to four years in prison, according to Gothamist. If you have a fake paper card, you'd that would fall under the state’s forgery law, a class A misdemeanor. That crime could come with up to a year of jail time.

The FBI also issued a warning in March saying that unauthorized use of an official government seal is a federal crime. (COVID-19 vaccine cards carry the seal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

Who is exempt from the vaccination mandate?

Kids under 12 years old and anyone entering for a minimum amount of time required for a limited purpose—using the bathroom, picking up or placing an order, showing proof of vaccination.

This doesn't apply to performing artists who do not reside in NYC and are not regularly employed by here; professional athletes/members of professional sports teams who do not live in NYC but enter for the purpose of competing; and individuals accompanying performing artists or a sports team/professional athlete as part of their regular employment and who do not live in NYC; and contractors who do not live in NYC.

How will the vaccination mandate be enforced?

Penalties for not complying for both people and businesses start at $1,000 and can reach $5,000 for repeated violators. It's unclear how exactly it'll be enforced or who will respond to reports of non-compliance.

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