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Visiting NYC? What you need to know about proof of vaccination for indoor activities

Aug. 21, 2021
7 min read
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As the delta variant continues to spread in the U.S., more cities are following in Europe's footsteps and testing out proof of vaccination mandates for certain activities — including New York City.

This week, the Big Apple was the first city in the U.S. to establish a vaccination mandate -- "Key to NYC" -- for all indoor activities including indoor dining, indoor fitness and indoor entertainment. The mandate went into effect Aug. 17 for everyone 12 and older, though businesses have until Sept. 13 to transition to this new process before it will start being fully enforced.

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“If you want to participate in our society fully, you’ve got to get vaccinated,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference. “It’s time.”

Based on our experiences this past week, businesses have been quick to adopt the new mandate, even if some are still working out the kinks of what the process will look like for workers, customers and guests.

In fact, a few entertainment venues and many bars and clubs in the city were implementing proof of vaccination requirements before the mandate went into effect. I went with TPG credit card reporter Chris Dong to see Ali Wong perform at the Beacon Theatre on Aug. 12, and the theatre required us to show proof of vaccination before entering the theatre.

Here's what you need to know about the new mandate in NYC.

What qualifies as an indoor activity

On New York City's Key to NYC page, the following are listed as the indoor activities that require proof of vaccination.

Indoor dining

  • Restaurants
  • Catering halls
  • Event spaces
  • Hotel banquet rooms
  • Bars
  • Nightclubs
  • Cafeterias
  • Grocery stores with indoor dining
  • Coffee shops
  • Fast food or quick service with indoor dining

Indoor fitness

  • Gyms
  • Fitness centers
  • Fitness classes
  • Pools
  • Indoor studios
  • Dance studios

Indoor entertainment

  • Movie theaters
  • Music and concert venues
  • Museums and galleries
  • Aquariums and zoos
  • Professional sports arenas
  • Indoor stadiums
  • Convention centers
  • Exhibition halls
  • Performing arts theaters
  • Bowling alleys, arcades, pool and billiard halls
  • Recreational game centers
  • Adult entertainment
  • Indoor play areas

There are exceptions for churches, community centers, office buildings and house parties.

Eligible ways to show proof of vaccination

According to NYC.gov, you'll be required to show proof of at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized for emergency use by the FDA or World Health Organization (WHO) through one of the following means:

  • NYC COVID Safe App
  • New York State's Excelsior Pass
  • CDC-issued vaccination card (or a photo)
  • NYC vaccination record
  • An official immunization record from outside NYC or the U.S.
The Excelsior Pass app, which provides digital proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test results seen displayed on a smartphone screen. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

If you got vaccinated outside of the U.S., your immunization record must include your first and last name, date of birth, vaccine product name, date(s) administered, the site where the vaccine was given and the name of the person who administered it.

Only vaccines authorized by the WHO are eligible.

Related: Excelsior Pass vs. Key to NYC Pass: What’s the difference?

Experiences on the ground vary right now

The mandate went into effect this week, but businesses and event venues are still working to figure out the best way to implement proof of vaccination processes. Some businesses have been faster to adopt the mandate than others, and we've found that the experience varies.

So far, larger event venues, theaters and gyms have already implemented the new mandate (and some had their own policies before this mandate went into effect).

TPG social media producer Mimi Wright's gym, Crunch Fitness, sent members an email last weekend ahead of the mandate going into effect:

"The safety and health of our members, team members, and guests are always Crunch's top priority. New York City now requires gyms and health clubs to admit patrons who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. We will begin accepting proof of vaccination status at all New York City Crunch locations starting August 16th. Per the City’s mandate, we will limit gym access to only those vaccinated beginning September 13th."

To make the process go smoothly, Crunch Fitness is also allowing members to upload proof of vaccination before they head to the gym. Mimi said that the process to verify was incredibly easy and added next to no time to her gym routine.

(Photo by Vostok/Getty Images)

I have tickets to Broadway for mid-September, and I received an email the other day that I would be required to show proof of vaccination and wear a mask while at the performance.

Earlier, I mentioned that I went to see Ali Wong's show at the Beacon Theatre. Even though this was before the mandate went into effect, the venue was requiring proof of vaccination to enter.

Outside the doors, multiple workers were ready to check proof of vaccination. They directed those who needed time to pull up photos, their physical card or the apps to the side so that they didn't hold up the line, and it was as easy as showing a photo of my vaccine card on my phone and my government-issued I.D. to enter.

Related: What it’s like dining out in LA now that some restaurants require proof of vaccination

So far, restaurants are where experiences are varying the most.

Some restaurants in my neighborhood (Bushwick) have already updated their websites to remind guests to bring proof of vaccination — including a local dinner theater that shows indie movies and cult classics. Many places in Manhattan have signs set up outside reminding guests that proof of vaccination will be required for indoor dining.

(Photo by Mimi Wright/The Points Guy)

However, other restaurants are still figuring out how to implement the mandate.

The mandate does pose a challenge for restaurants in need of a new process for seating and serving customers — do hostesses now act as bouncers, what if the restaurant is a quick-serve "seat yourself" spot, should there be dedicated workers waiting outside to check I.D. and vaccination status, is there a way for those with reservations to pre-validate proof of vaccination?

Over the coming weeks, expect to see more restaurants and other indoor fitness and entertainment venues implementing new processes for checking proof of vaccination ahead of the Sept. 13 enforcement date. And if you have plans in the city, make sure you have an eligible proof of vaccination method with you.

Related: Everything you need to know about visiting New York City this summer

Businesses that do not comply with the mandate after Sept. 13 will be subject to fines from $1,000 (for a first offense) to $5,000 (for the third).

Mayor de Blasio said he hopes the mandate will help increase vaccination rates in the city. According to New York City's government website, 74.9% of adults in NYC have received at least one COVID-19 vaccination dose and 68% are fully vaccinated.

Additional reporting by Mimi Wright.

Featured image by (Photo by Luciano Mortula - LGM / Shutterstock.com)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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