NYC employers slow down return to offices amid Delta fears, survey finds


Major employers in the Big Apple are slowing down their plans to bring their employees back to their Manhattan offices amid growing worries about the hyper-contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Just 41 percent of office workers are set to be back at their desks by the end of September, major employers told the city’s main business group, the Partnership for New York City, in its most recent survey released Wednesday.

That’s down 21 percent from the 62 percent that employers were planning for as recently as the group’s last survey in May.

However, it would still constitute a near-doubling of the current 23 percent of desks and offices that are currently filled in Manhattan, the Partnership reported.

“Employers first concern is the health of their employees and they’re not going to push return to the office if it puts people in danger,” said Kathy Wylde, who heads the Partnership. “The new COVID strain and the breakthrough cases have shaken everyone’s confidence that we’re out of the woods.”

The survey found that 44 percent of major employers in Manhattan had hit the brakes on their plans to bring workers back because of the Delta variant, while 54 percent said it had not.

Employers now expect the bulk of their workforces — 76 percent — to return to the office by January 2022.

The slowdown comes as Mayor Bill de Blasio dawdles on deciding when to bring the city’s office-bound municipal workforce back to their desks full time.

A survey found that 44 percent of New York City employers have stopped their plans to bring remote workers back.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Worries about the Delta variant have led city officials to launch a full-court press on vaccination to push the Big Apple’s vaccination rates higher, which would make it significantly harder for the virus to spread in the five boroughs.

A new report released by the city’s Health Department on Wednesday revealed that vaccinated New Yorkers accounted for just four percent of the coronavirus infections here and only three percent of hospitalizations.

Those findings affirmed a new study released by the state Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week, which revealed that vaccinations slash the risk of getting the much-feared Delta variant by 80 percent and then reduce the odds of hospitalization by more than 90 percent if there’s an infection.

The Partnership report also revealed that 81 percent of the Manhattan office workforce is already vaccinated and that 58 percent of the companies surveyed plan to require their staff to get inoculated.

That’s far better than the numbers posted by many key front line city agencies — including the Police, Fire and Sanitation departments — where vaccination rates remain below 50 percent.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has mandated that all municipal workers get the COVID-19 vaccine or get tested regularly.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has mandated that all municipal workers get the COVID-19 vaccine or get tested regularly.
AP Photo/Richard Drew

The lagging uptake in the municipal workforce pushed Mayor Bill de Blasio to order employees of most city agencies either get their shots or face weekly COVID testing. Hizzoner further tightened the inoculation requirement for employees at the Department of Education last week, ending the testing opt-out.

Beyond the mandates, City Hall also began offering $100 debit cards to New Yorkers finally getting their first shot and rolled out a vaccine passport program, all with the intent of convincing and cajoling those hesitant about the jabs to get their shots.

The Partnership survey reported that 94 percent of companies approve the new “Key to NYC” passport program, which requires that patrons of indoor dining, imbibing and entertainment to show proof of vaccination at the door before being served.

“There should be every incentive for people to get vaccinated,” Wylde said. “The public in New York definitely wants people to get vaccinated and wants to be very cautious that we put health concerns first.”

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