New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city will impose a vaccine mandate for all private-sector employees and require proof of vaccination for children aged 5-11 for indoor dining, entertainment and fitness establishments.
The toughest-in-the-US mandate, which comes into effect on December 27, is in an effort to fight off the new Omicron variant amid the colder weather.
"New York City will not give a single inch in the fight against Covid-19. Vaccination is the way out of this pandemic, and these are bold, first-in-the-nation measures to encourage New Yorkers to keep themselves and their communities safe," de Blasio said.
Unvaccinated workers will be required to test weekly to prove they don't have Covid.
Starting from December 14, kids aged 5-11 will be required to show proof of at least one shot. Then on December 27, kids ages 12 and older will need proof of both doses.
New York City has already announced vaccination mandates for city employees, childcare providers and non-public school employees.
Ninety-four per cent of the city workforce is vaccinated, however only 20 per cent of kids aged 5-11 are vaccinated.
"A lot of parents want to take their kids out to wonderful things happening in the holiday season. Here's a reminder, get your child vaccinated. One dose will immediately qualify a child in any of those activities," de Blasio said.
"I'm a parent, I remember vividly when my kids were going to school. You don't end up in the situation where a child is left unprotected. I urge parents really strongly get that vaccination. It's safe, it's proven. Here's another incentive to do it."
The move has already come under fire from business groups.
Kathryn Wylde, CEO of the Partnership for New York City, said members of the city's business community were just learning of the mandate from the media.
She said she did not believe it is not enforceable and will be challenged in court.
New York has identified eight cases of the Omicron variant as of the weekend, seven in the New York City area and one in Suffolk County on Long Island.
Covid cases are again on the rise in New York with more than 1500 new cases confirmed daily on average.
The Biden administration was forced to halt the implementation and enforcement of national vaccine and testing requirements for businesses with 100 or more employees to comply with a federal court order.
The World Health Organisation said last week that early data suggests Omicron is more contagious than past variants but it is unclear whether Omicron causes more severe disease. The people who have tested positive for Omicron in the US so far have shown mild to moderate symptoms.