Earlier this year, New York City officials were thrilled to reopen the city in full as vaccination rates picked up and coronavirus cases ticked downward. But then the delta variant hit hard, and now, things aren't looking as rosy on a national level.
The recent surge has gotten so bad that it prompted the CDC to reverse course on mask-wearing. The agency is now recommending that even fully vaccinated individuals wear a mask indoors, particularly in areas with high transmission rates.
Meanwhile, some businesses may, on an individual basis, choose to impose their own masking requirements. But restaurants, fitness centers, and entertainment venues in New York City won't get a say in the matter. That's because the city will now require proof of vaccination to enter one of these facilities.
A public safety measure
Health experts have said that the recent surge of COVID-19 cases is being fueled largely by unvaccinated individuals. Now, those who haven't gotten a vaccine won't just be putting their health at risk. They'll also be taking certain activities off the table, at least in New York City. And if the outbreak worsens, more cities could follow in New York's lead, creating a huge divide in privileges between the vaccinated and unvaccinated.
It's estimated that 66% of New York City adults are fully vaccinated. However, it's not just locals who frequent establishments in the city. New York has seen a surge in tourists this summer, and the fear is that unvaccinated travelers could be bringing COVID-19 into the city with them.
Major Bill de Blasio, who announced these new guidelines, has been reluctant to reinstate a universal indoor mask mandate even though other cities like Los Angeles have already taken that step. And critics of mask mandates say they punish the vaccinated, who have done their part to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. But the city's new health pass (dubbed the Key to NYC Pass) may inspire more residents to go out and get a vaccine. And if enough people take that step, a city-wide mask mandate may be avoidable.
Incidentally, New York isn't the first location to implement a health pass. France is doing something similar in an effort to keep its outbreaks to a minimum.
Will vaccine requirements hurt New York City real estate investors?
While requiring vaccines to enter gyms, restaurants, and theaters is a smart public health move, it could unfortunately come back to hurt real estate investors. If customers are driven away from these establishments, smaller businesses could suffer losses in revenue. And that could, in turn, lead to closures, putting landlords in a position where they once again risk struggling with vacancies.
The city's new vaccine requirements could also hurt tourism. Unvaccinated visitors are less likely to be drawn to New York City if they can't see shows and experience the dining scene, and while outdoor dining may be an option right now, once the weather cools, it'll largely be off the table.
Of course, if vaccination rates pick up enough within the city, de Blasio may seek to remove vaccine requirements. But for now, city residents and visitors alike will need to adapt to them. And real estate investors will need to brace for the potential impact.