New York City Spending $10 Million on COVID Vaccine Media Blitz Aimed at Tourists

New York City launched a $10 million media blitz campaign aimed at tourists, encouraging them to receive the COVID-19 vaccination as the city begins implementing new rules for vaccinations in public places, the Associated Press reported.

Mayor Bill de Blasio issued the new rules to combat the sharp increase in new coronavirus cases in the city. Over the past week, the city averaged 2,000 new cases a day, compared to around 200 a day in late June.

The mayor also announced that about 100 vaccination sites, such as gyms, will be set up, and over 600 canvassers will be sent out to help the campaign.

Avner Balkany, visiting from Israel with his family, said he'd been unaware of the city's new rules but was prepared to show his vaccination card regardless.

"We have to persuade as many people as possible to get vaccinated," he said. "I know this is problematic—people's rights—but, still, this is an emergency. In an emergency, you have to take aggressive measures."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

New York COVID vaccine mandate
A new COVID-19 vaccine mandate requires proof of vaccination for entry into restaurants, indoor gyms and all indoor entertainment in New York City. Above, a sign at a restaurant in New York's Upper West Side on August 17, 2021, the first day when you have to show proof of having a COVID-19 vaccination to dine indoors. Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images

The Stop Inn isn't hiding that it plans to comply with the city's new edict on the coronavirus—that all patrons dining indoors at restaurants, browsing art at museums or sweating it out at gyms must prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Signs on the front door and windows of the Queens diner went up Monday ahead of Tuesday's compliance with the city's latest effort to fight the particularly the troublesome and more contagious delta variant that has fueled a surge in infections and hospitalizations.

Norbu Lama, 17, said he was surprised when a server politely asked for his vaccination card soon after he slid into a booth with his parents and younger sister.

"We didn't know we had to bring it," he said. The server appeared relieved when Lama and his family presented copies of their vaccination cards on their phone, Lama said.

The vaccination mandate, announced two weeks ago by de Blasio, aims to persuade more people to get vaccinated or else miss out on city amenities like restaurants, bars, gyms, public performances, museums and other venues.

But the measures are fraught with complications, as restaurant servers, bartenders and ticket agents become the frontline enforcers for vaccination rules. Skittish about losing business, but mindful that another economic shutdown could be disastrous, business owners are keenly aware that controlling the virus will keep their doors open.

"We do not want to go back to restrictions," de Blasio said at a virtual news conference Tuesday. "The key to our progress is vaccination."

Since early August, more than 300,000 more people have gotten at least one shot of a vaccine, according to city data. At least 5.2 million of the city's 8.8 million residents have gotten at least one shot, with nearly 5 million fully vaccinated.

As the Delta variant poses a growing threat, some cities and states, as well as the federal government, have moved more aggressively to get more people inoculated or have them face consequences such as regular testing or losing access to elements of public life.

Since New York City made its announcement, San Francisco and New Orleans have followed suit. Los Angeles is considering similar measures. All are led by Democratic mayors, underscoring the political divide over mandates on vaccines, masks and other measures.

The new rules went into effect Tuesday, but enforcement won't begin until September 13, offering a grace period for implementation.

The Museum of Modern Art on Tuesday was not requiring visitors to show proof of vaccination. A ticket agent said he didn't know when the requirement starts.

Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, said his group was fully behind the effort. In return for the industry's cooperation, he called on officials to replenish financial aid to still-struggling restaurants.

Leon Ellis, the owner of Chocolate, a restaurant in the city's Harlem neighborhood, said the sacrifices are needed to keep the virus from wreaking more havoc on businesses like his.

"This COVID is a big deal. So we need to do everything that we can to make sure that we get it in check," he said.

Ellis knows there are details he and his staff still need to work out to fully comply with new rules, but he also knows enforcement won't begin for several more weeks.

"I still have to do my research on it," he said. "But whatever the guidelines are, we will comply."

Vaccination Card At MOMA
Avner Balkany said he was unaware of the city's new vaccination rules but would be prepared to show proof that he was vaccinated in January. Balkany, 56, of Israel, shows his vaccination card while waiting to enter the Museum of Modern Art in New York on Tuesday. Bobby Caina Calvan/AP Photo