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NYC Museum visitors & employees must be

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at a food shelf organized by the Campaign Against Hunger in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn on April 14, 2020, in New York City. Photo: Scott Heins/Getty Images.

Sarah Cascone, All Visitors to New York City Museums Must Now Provide Proof of Vaccination—Starting Tomorrow, ArtNet News, 16 August 2021

Employees must also be vaccinated.

Visitors to New York City museums, art fairs, and art galleries will now be required to show proof of vaccination.

The new rule, which applies to both employees and patrons at institutions such as museums, concert halls, aquariums, gyms, movie theaters, convention centers, and zoos, will be covered by the Key to NYC Pass, which regulates access to indoor facilities. (Visitors under age 12 who are not eligible for vaccination can visit covered facilities with a vaccinated adult.)

“You’ll have the key. You can open the door,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference. “But if you’re un-vaccinated, unfortunately, you will not be able to participate in many things.”

The mayor hopes the vaccine mandate will encourage New Yorkers to get the shot and fight the spread of the coronavirus Delta variant. (Other efforts to encourage New Yorkers to get vaccinated include $100 payments in exchange for getting the shot at a city-run site.)

Empty Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and Sodium Chloride diluent vials. Photo courtesy of Northwell Health.

The city’s vaccine mandate will be implemented with a mayoral executive order and a health commissioner’s order, set to be signed today. Vaccinated individuals will be able to confirm their vaccinated status with their vaccination card, the NYC COVID SAFE app, or the state’s Excelsior app. The regulations go into effect on August 17, with enforcement beginning after Labor Day, on September 13. Fines for non-compliance start at $1,000.

“We applaud this mandate being put in place as a move that could protect the arts from being forced to close again due to COVID,” said Charles Segars, CEO of Ovation TV and founder of the arts advocacy coalition Stand for the Arts in an email to Artnet News. “Having guidance from the government during a major crisis takes the onus off of arts organizations to make these difficult decisions and potentially alienate patrons.”

“We are wholly supportive of the city’s efforts to encourage vaccines for visitors and staff,” Kenneth Weine, chief communications officer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, told Artnet News in an email. “The Met has been open without interruption for now a year during the pandemic—and keeping staff and visitors safe is our top priority… The mayor is exactly right that the only route to continued progress is higher vaccination rates.”

The full list of activities covered under the new Key to NYC vaccine mandate. Courtesy of the New York City Mayor’s Office.

In announcing the new Key to NYC provisions, the mayor addressed concerns that the vaccine mandate will become an additional burden on museums that have been hard hit financially by the pandemic.

“Cultural institutions clearly have a capacity right now for checking people in when they arrive. This is an additional step for sure, but it’s one that I think they can navigate and that we’re going to work with them on,” he said at a press conference. “We are defined by our arts and culture in this city, and having arts and culture come back gave people hope.”

The mayor also reiterated his support for efforts to improve diversity at museums. He does not believe that the vaccine mandate will keep Black and Hispanic people from visiting museums, even though those communities remain less likely to be vaccinated than white people.

“I believe in terms of communities of color, this is going to encourage people both audiences and staff members to get vaccinated,” he added.

New York’s vaccine mandate for indoor activities, announced on August 3, was the first in the nation, and follows similar requirements in France and Italy.

Other U.S. cities have begun to follow De Blasio’s lead. San Francisco will require vaccination to patronize restaurants, bars, gyms, and entertainment venues as of August 20. In New Orleans, visitors to restaurants, bars, and other indoor venues will need to show records of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test beginning August 23.

People wearing face masks visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art as it reopens to members after the pandemic closure, on August 27, 2020 in New York City, NY. (Photo by Liao Pan/China News Service via Getty Images).

Despite new federal guidance that vaccinated individuals should return to wearing masks indoors due to rising COVID levels, both De Blasio and outgoing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have stopped short of reinstating a mask mandate. Instead, the vaccine is seen as the most important tool in fighting the pandemic.

“We’ve got to defeat the Delta variant,” De Blasio said. “Vaccination is the whole ballgame.”

Segars hopes that a nationwide vaccine mandate is on its way.

“We again call on the Biden Administration to establish a Secretary of Arts and Culture who can provide this kind of guidance at the federal level and give all states a clear-cut path to follow for arts re-openings,” he said. “We need to protect all local arts institutions across the country, not just the ones in New York City.”