Some Cities Are Removing Indoor COVID Vaccine Mandates. Should They Wait?

vaccine mandate notice.

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Key Takeaways

  • Many big cities are lifting their vaccine requirements for indoor places, like Boston and New York City.
  • Mandates are a patchwork of different policies across states and cities.
  • Everyone is encouraged to get their COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to increase their protection against the disease.

Now that the Omicron peak has gradually dwindled and COVID-19 cases are declining, some cities like Boston and Philadelphia have announced the end of their vaccine requirements for restaurants and other public indoor places. New York City plans to lift its indoor mask mandate by next week.

Some say now is the right time to loosen COVID-19 restrictions because cases are falling. However, other experts emphasize that easing them may allow another surge to occur or put immunocompromised and unvaccinated populations, like kids under 5, at a higher risk.

Conflicting Guidelines

During this pandemic, many states and cities have enforced their own COVID-19 public health strategies. While some complement each other’s mandates, others are sometimes contradictory.

“As a country, we have had many conflicting mandates in cities and states, in private and public spaces, and in private and public schools,” Chris Beyrer, MD, MPH, Desmond M. Tutu professor in public health and human rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Verywell. “This patchwork approach has not served us well and is one of the reasons we have had more losses of life than other industrialized countries.”

There are many previous and ongoing legal challenges with regard to vaccine requirements and bans on vaccine mandates, which usually involved workplaces and educational institutions.

“It’s a complicated relationship between cities and states, and often states override what the rules are of cities, so, there is no clear, hard-fast rule on how this might play out,” Perry N. Halkitis, PhD, MS, MPH, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, told Verywell.

What This Means For You

Some cities are lifting their vaccination requirements for public indoor places. Make sure to check the requirements in place in your city and state. If you’re unvaccinated, you are recommended to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect yourself and others around you. 

Do Vaccination Requirements Curb COVID-19?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), virus transmission between unvaccinated individuals is the main cause of the continued spread of COVID-19. While studies have indicated the virus is just as transmissible in the vaccinated once infected, vaccinated people are less likely to become infected.

“[Indoor vaccination requirements] were completely helpful,” Halkitis said. “They were probably the main factor that prevented further spread of the disease when it was surging with Delta and Omicron. It did not provide a false sense of security, it provided a layer of protection for people and protected [them] against the others who might not be vaccinated.”

However, it remains true that vaccines cannot completely prevent infection or transmission. Because vaccinated people with COVID-19 can still spread the virus to others—though at a much lower rate than unvaccinated people—some say that vaccination requirements may not have been that beneficial.

“No indoor vaccine mandates have significantly reduced exposures,” Beyrer said. 

Still, there have been several studies showing a reduced likelihood of COVID-19 transmission to within households when the infected individual was fully vaccinated. Overall, transmission risk is reduced in vaccinated people, and fully vaccinated individuals infected with the Delta variant are infectious for a shorter period than unvaccinated individuals.

Is Now the Right Time to Loosen COVID-19 Restrictions?

Now that the peak of the Omicron surge has passed, many are eager to return to some semblance of normalcy. 

“The data suggests we are on the steep decline of the Omicron surge in much of the country,” Beyrer said. “Absent the appearance of another variant of concern, it is reasonable to begin to lift restrictions. However, those with immunocompromise, the elderly, or those who have vulnerable people in their households should continue to use precautions.”

On the other hand, many believe that easing restrictions would only give way to another surge in cases. Although the number of cases is lower in comparison to a few weeks ago, they remain considerably high. Loosening vaccination requirements may also reduce the protection afforded to people who are unvaccinated, immunocompromised, and those under 5 years who do not have an available vaccine yet.

“I don’t think it is the right time [to loosen COVID-19 restrictions], quite frankly,” Halkitis said. “I think that the data indicate that the disease is moving in the right direction in terms of the number of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, but we are still [seeing high numbers of] infections a day."

Perry N. Halkitis, PhD

I think vaccination requirements need to remain in place for indoor locations, at least for the foreseeable future...At this rate, we have a possibility of resurging again in the fall.

— Perry N. Halkitis, PhD

"I think vaccination requirements need to remain in place for indoor locations, at least for the foreseeable future, until such time that we bring infection rates down to about 200 a day or less than 200 a day," he added. "At this rate, we have a possibility of resurging again in the fall.”

Unvaccinated individuals are encouraged to get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible to build protection against the severe outcomes of the disease. Being vaccinated will not only help you but also the people around you. If you are fully vaccinated and it has been five months since your second dose, you can already get your booster shot.

“Our challenge is that we still have...Americans refusing these highly efficacious and effective vaccines, which don’t prevent many infections, but do significantly reduce the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death," Beyrer said.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Science Brief: COVID-19 Vaccines and Vaccination.

  2. Singanayagam A, Hakki S, Dunning J et al. Community transmission and viral load kinetics of the SARS-CoV-2 delta (B.1.617.2) variant in vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals in the UK: a prospective, longitudinal, cohort studyThe Lancet Infectious Diseases. 2022;22(2):183-195. doi:10.1016/s1473-3099(21)00648-4

By Carla Delgado
Carla M. Delgado is a health and culture writer based in the Philippines.