The mayor of Boston said the city won’t be following New York’s lead requiring proof of vaccination at many indoor businesses, claiming the move is reminiscent of “slavery” and birtherism.
Acting Mayor Kim Janey — the first woman and black Bostonian to hold the office — said “there’s a long history” in the United States of people “needing to show their papers” when asked Tuesday about the mandate unveiled earlier in the day by Mayor Bill de Blasio that requires proof of vaccination to enter indoor restaurants, entertainment venues and gyms starting on Sept. 13.
“During slavery, post-slavery, as recent as, you know, what the immigrant population has to go through here, we’ve heard Trump with the birth certificate nonsense,” Janey told WCVB. “Here, we want to make sure that we are not doing anything that would further create a barrier for residents of Boston or disproportionally impact BIPOC communities.”
Janey said the city instead “wants to lean in heavy” on partnering with community groups to ramp up Boston’s vaccination rate and give people more access to the “lifesaving” vaccine.
“As it relates to people who want to encourage their workforce to get vaccinated, we certainly support that,” Janey continued.
Sixty-six percent of Bostonians had received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to Janey, who took office in March when Marty Walsh resigned to become President Joe Biden’s labor secretary.
“That is good progress,” Janey said. “We have much more work to do to make sure that everyone can get the vaccine and we will continue to focus on that.”
But Janey said a mandate like New York’s would be “difficult” to enforce. Her comments drew harsh rebukes from some of her opponents in November’s upcoming mayoral election.
“When we are combating a deadly virus & vaccine hesitancy in some communities, this kind of rhetoric is dangerous,” tweeted City Councilor Andrea Campbell tweeted. “Showing proof of vaccination is not slavery or birtherism. We are too close to give ground to COVID. Science is science. It’s pretty simple – Vax up and mask up.”
Janey responded to the criticism later Tuesday while at a block party, the Boston Globe reported.
“What I said was there is a long history of asking people to show their papers,” Janey explained. “What our focus here in Boston is in making sure that everyone has access to the vaccine, making sure that we are doing everything to vaccinate our workforce in the city of Boston, making sure that our residents have access to the vaccine.”
Janey’s press office also released a statement clarifying her remarks, WCVB reported.
“Earlier today, I pointed out several hurdles facing communities of color with lower vaccination rates,” the statement read. “These hurdles should not be excuses, but we must consider our shared history as we work to ensure an equitable public health and economic recovery.”
Janey said there’s no current plans for vaccine mandates at businesses despite a recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Boston due to the Delta variant.
“But we are still well below threshold levels that have guided policy decisions throughout the pandemic,” Janey’s statement read. “Work with our business community will continue, as we learn to live with COVID-19.”