In a video that's been seen by hundreds of thousands online, a 5-year-old boy is reduced to tears at a New York City restaurant as police officers tell his mother they have to leave because they do not have their vaccination papers.
“You don’t have the card? If you don’t have it, then you’ll have to leave,” an NYPD officer tells the family, who had been seated at a table.
Police told the boy's mother that anyone without proof of vaccination could be charged with trespassing.
“If you leave voluntarily, there will not be charges pressed against you; otherwise you will be arrested for trespass. This is your only warning,” the officer said.
Several angry bystanders could be seen recording the incident and yelling at police officers about their rights being infringed.
“Scaring a child, traumatizing a child. I hope you feel good about yourself, NYPD,” a woman says. "This is disgusting. This is gross."
The video went viral as New York City began enforcing the strictest private-sector vaccine mandate in the nation on Monday. The mandate, enacted by Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), requires everyone age 12 and up to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to patronize businesses with indoor spaces, including restaurants, gyms, music venues, movie theaters, and other indoor public spaces.
For now, children ages 5 to 11 need only show proof of one vaccine dose. But that will change Wednesday, when the vaccine rules will be strengthened to require these children to be fully vaccinated to enter indoor spaces, the New York Post reported.
Several New York City restaurant managers told the Post they've been forced to turn dozens of customers away to comply with the city's vaccine requirements.
“They can eat outside, but who is going to eat outside with 5- and 6-year-old kids in this weather?” Christina Myers, host at the Margaritaville Resort Times Square, said. She said she'd turned away more than 20 would-be customers by midday on Monday, when temperatures in the city reached a high of 38 degrees.
Chris McCormack, the manager at the Brooklyn Diner in Times Square, said he had to turn away more than 40 hungry customers, but added that the restrictions were worth the loss if the mandates ultimately keep businesses open.
“No business wants restrictions, but most of my business comes from the theaters, and they can’t stay open unless everyone is vaccinated,” McCormack said.
Those turned away include families with young children. Erik St. Martin, a 38-year-old tourist from Florida, told the Post he and his 7-year-old daughter Allie were turned away from the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square because she hasn't gotten any shots.
“We are in New York for another week, and it’s going to be a real pain not being allowed to eat at restaurants,” St. Martin said.
“We didn’t know about the vaccine mandate for kids when we booked our family holiday months ago,” he explained.
Tourists from all around the world, including from places that don't require children to be vaccinated against COVID-19, are stuck in similar predicaments and may be forced to cut short their trips to the city.
Despite the restrictions, New York is firmly in the grip of a winter coronavirus surge driven by the Omicron variant. Data from Monday shows the seven-day average case positivity rate in NYC is above 15%, nearly four times greater than it was two weeks ago. The rolling case average is likewise up 108% over the average for the previous four weeks, WNBC-TV reported.
Although statewide COVID hospitalizations are reaching a 10-month high, de Blasio said Monday that local hospitals are "holding it together."
“Definitely some pressure on our hospitals, definitely a challenge, but much different than what we experienced in the past in terms of the impact that it’s having on people, and our hospitals are holding it together here in the city," the mayor told reporters.