New York becomes first U.S. city to order COVID vaccines for restaurants, gyms

NEW YORK, Aug 3 (Reuters) - New York City will become the first major U.S. city to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination at restaurants, gyms and other businesses, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday, as the nation grapples with the rapidly spreading Delta variant.

With vaccines widely available, political leaders were combating the latest surge in infections with shots and masks rather than ordering businesses to close and Americans to stay home as they did last year. (Graphic of U.S. cases)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday issued a new 60-day moratorium on residential evictions in areas with high levels of COVID-19 cases, despite a Supreme Court ruling in June suggesting that such a move would require Congress to pass new legislation.

The U.S. government and several states, along with some hospitals and universities, already require employees to get inoculated. Tyson Foods (TSN.N) on Tuesday became one of the largest private employers to require workers to be immunized to combat the virus that has killed over 600,000 in the country.

New York City's policy requires proof of at least one dose and will be enforced starting Sept. 13. Like mask mandates and last year's stay-at-home orders, the plan will likely meet stiff resistance.

In France, government imposition of a nationwide health passport proving vaccination has touched off large protests, often dispersed by police using tear gas.

Government vaccine passports are controversial among Americans as well, especially conservatives.

"It is time for people to see vaccination as literally necessary to living a good and full and healthy life," de Blasio, a Democrat, told a news conference.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is aiming to give full approval for the Pfizer (PFE.N) COVID vaccine by early September, the New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing people involved in the effort.

Roughly 60% of all New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to city data. But certain areas, largely poor communities and communities of color, have much lower vaccination rates.

The city's announcement comes as cases surge nationwide. Florida and Louisiana have emerged as the latest hot spots, straining hospitals. (Graphic on hospitalizations)

Florida and Louisiana are both reporting record numbers of hospitalized COVID patients, as one doctor warned of the "darkest days" yet.

More than 11,300 patients were hospitalized in Florida as of Tuesday, with COVID patients filling 22% of the state's hospital beds, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In highly vaccinated Vermont, 0.4% of its hospital beds are occupied by coronavirus patients.


Louisiana was also dealing with one of the worst outbreaks in the nation, prompting Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, to order residents to wear masks again indoors.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Los Angeles County have nearly quadrupled in the last four weeks to 1,096 on Monday, the department of public health said. The percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus also climbed to 6.2%, up from 1.3% a month ago, according to department data.

To fight the spread in California, political leaders in eight San Francisco Bay Area counties this week reinstated mandatory indoor mask orders. Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, late last month mandated all state employees to get vaccinated starting Aug. 2 or undergo COVID-19 testing at least once a week.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has taken the opposite stance. He issued an executive order last week barring schools from requiring face coverings, saying parents should make that decision for their children.

The Sunshine State claimed another grim record with the highest number of pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations -- 138 as of Tuesday, more than those recorded in Texas despite its larger population.

DeSantis defended the state's approach at a news conference on Tuesday.

"We're not shutting down. We're going to have schools open. We're protecting every Floridian's job in this state. We're protecting people's small businesses," DeSantis said

In Arkansas, another state were hospitalizations for COVID-19 have spiked, Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson said he will ask state legislators on Wednesday to provide an exception to a law that prohibits state and local governments, including school boards, from mandating masks.

The private sector, including many large U.S. companies, have also taken some steps in response to the Delta variant threat.

Detroit's Big Three automakers and the United Auto Workers (UAW) union said on Tuesday they will reinstate requirements to wear masks at all U.S. plants, offices and warehouses beginning on Wednesday but are not requiring workers to be vaccinated.

Big Tech companies like Alphabet's Google (GOOGL.O) and Facebook (FB.O) have said all U.S. employees must get vaccinated to step into offices. read more

Reporting by Maria Caspani and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Stephen Coates

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.