New York City has released guidance for businesses ahead of the start date for its private sector COVID-19 vaccination mandate, on Dec. 27. 

The private sector vaccination mandate is the first in the nation without an option for regular coronavirus testing. While previous vaccine mandates for city workers were consistently challenged in courts, especially by unions, businesses have so far not sued over the new mandate. 

Currently, more than 90% of all New York City residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to city data

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he believes the mandate for businesses will push vaccination levels higher. 

“We saw every single time we put a mandate in place, it was the decisive factor in getting a lot of people to move,” de Blasio said Wednesday at a news conference. 

The mandate guidance requires that all employees of private businesses submit proof of at least one vaccine dose by Dec. 27, and that employers keep a full record of their workers’ vaccination statuses. 

Businesses will have a certificate of full vaccination they can display, similar to a certificate already available to restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues that must check proof of vaccination from customers under the Key to NYC program. The businesses are also required to make their vaccination records available to city inspectors. 

De Blasio said that his administration has been meeting with dozens of Business Improvement Districts, chambers of commerce and other business associations ahead of the mandate’s start. 

“We want a cooperative, positive approach,” he said. “The goal is not to penalize. The goal is to simply make this work.”

Fines for violations of the mandate start at $1,000 per instance. 

“We can escalate that intensely if we see a pattern of willful refusal to follow the law,” de Blasio said. 

Yet de Blasio added that the city has not seen widespread fines necessary for the vaccination requirement of the Key to NYC program.

As of earlier in December, the city had inspected more than 52,000 businesses under Key to NYC, according to an analysis from the New York Times, issuing only 31 fines of $1,000 each. 

Businesses are required to check proof of reasonable accommodations for employees who claim a religious or medical exemption for vaccination. The city will be on the lookout for businesses that may have improperly allowed such exemptions, said Georgia Pestana, the city’s corporation counsel. 

“If there’s any concern that the process may not have been done right, or there may not even be a process, of course we have a right to step in and make sure the process is done right,” de Blasio said.