Masked visitors during a tour at the Tenement Museum in New York City, which has required proof of full vaccination since its reopening in June. (photo by Gemma Solomons, courtesy of the Tenement Museum)

Starting August 16, New York will be the first city in the United States to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for public indoor settings, including performance, entertainment, and cultural venues. The move comes after similar mandates were issued in countries including France and Italy, and as the more contagious Delta variant of the virus continues to spread, posing a major threat primarily among the unvaccinated population.

“If you want to participate in society fully, you’ve got to get vaccinated. It’s time,” tweeted NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. The new “Key to NYC Pass” displaying immunization status will be implemented this month, but will not be enforced with penalties and fines until September 13, the mayor said in a press conference this morning.

The mandate is meant to incentivize unvaccinated New Yorkers — about 40% of the city’s population — to get the jab by requiring proof of at least one dose in order to participate in indoor activities. Citywide, around 60% of residents have received a single dose and 55% are fully vaccinated, but the rates are lower in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.

Just yesterday, Mayor De Blasio was criticized for encouraging but not enforcing indoor masking in New York. Most museums in the city require visitors to wear face coverings regardless of vaccination status; it is still unclear how museums and libraries will be impacted by the newly announced “Key to NYC” plan. Representatives for the Whitney Museum of American Art and Metropolitan Museum told Hyperallergic that the respective institutions would continue to enforce indoor masking for staff and visitors and follow any city and state mandates.

Some institutions, like the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side, have been a step ahead, requiring proof of full vaccination to join indoor tours of its historic building since it reopened in June. Unvaccinated visitors, including children under the age of 12 for whom the shot is not yet approved, are only permitted on outdoor walking tours or the museum’s Meet Victoria at Play: 1916, which takes place outdoors in a rear yard.

“The Museum is currently selling out more than 90% of our available tours and visitors have been receptive and appreciative of the policy,” said Rachael Grygorcewicz, the Tenement Museum’s chief operating officer.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Valentina Di Liscia is the News Editor at Hyperallergic. Originally from Argentina, she studied at the University of Chicago and is currently working on her MA at Hunter College, where she received the...