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Queens Museum. Photo: Leo Chiou/Wikimedia Commons.
Queens Museum. Photo: Leo Chiou/Wikimedia Commons.

New York Arts Institutions Mandate Vaccines for Visitors and Staff

The city of New York, the first US city to mandate vaccination for those attending indoor concerts, gyms, and restaurants, will soon require those visiting or working at any of its museums or cultural institutions to show proof of vaccination, the New York Times reports. In addition to the thirty-three city-owned museums scattered throughout New York's five-borough area, concert halls, aquariums, and zoos will also adhere to the vaccine mandate. Children under the age of twelve, who are too young to be vaccinated, may enter these venues only in the company of a vaccinated adult, and are urged to wear masks. Accepted forms of proof of vaccination include a photo or hard copy of an official vaccination card, New York City vaccination apps, or an official vaccine record for approved vaccines.

The city will launch a $10 million media campaign to get the word out about the mandate, which will formally take effect Tuesday, August 17, and be will enforced from September 13. The implementation of the policy, which has been expected for several weeks now, had been held up due to employment-law issues related to making the jab mandatory for staff. The Times reports there were also concerns over how the rule might affect ongoing efforts to advance inclusion and access in museums; last week, the paper published city data showing that 28 percent of Black New Yorkers between the ages 18 to 44 were fully vaccinated, compared with 48 percent of Latino residents and 52 percent of white residents in the same age bracket. New York mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would continue working to diversify the staff and audiences of its cultural institutions, but stressed that that the surge of a highly transmissible strain of the virus demanded a vaccine mandate: “This moment with the Delta variant is a very, very challenging moment but it is also a temporary reality.”  

Also at issue was the potential lost revenue and added costs of enforcing the new rules, which was of particular concern to cash-strapped institutions already operating at reduced hours and limited capacity. The city's museums and cultural institutions were “the first to be shut and we were the last to reopen,” said Lucy Sexton, executive director of the advocacy group New Yorkers for Culture & Arts. “The whole field has not been given the measure of relief others have.” Despite their precarious financial situation, the affected museums voiced support for the initiative. “Everyone wants their audiences and their employees to be safe,” said Sexton.

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