As vaccinations continue to ramp up in the Big Apple, municipal office workers are preparing to return to the workplace physically — and will begin doing just that starting May 3 under a new directive Mayor de Blasio announced Tuesday.

The mayor’s plan applies to about 80,000 city employees who work in offices. It will not require proof of COVID vaccination but includes social-distancing and mask-wearing provisions.

“We’re going to make it safe, but we need our city workers back in their offices where they can do the most to help their fellow New Yorkers,” de Blasio said Tuesday morning. “It’s also going to send a powerful message about this city moving forward.”

So far, more than 3.4 million vaccinations have taken place in New York City, and de Blasio wants 5 million New Yorkers fully vaccinated by June. With more vaccine doses expected from the federal government by April, hitting that goal seems more possible than it did just a month ago when doses were in far shorter supply.

Accelerating vaccinations in the city would make transitioning from remote work to in-person easier and less risky, but returning workers will still be required to take precautions. As of Tuesday, about 80% of city workers were reporting to their physical work sites because most city employees are considered frontline workers, according to the mayor.

  “There’s going to be a lot of people who are vaccinated coming back to work, and there will be some who are not,” de Blasio said. “But the approach will be focused on distancing, on ventilation, on all the tools that we know keep people safe.”

The mayor’s plan applies to about 80,000 city employees who work in offices.
The mayor’s plan applies to about 80,000 city employees who work in offices. (ShutterStock)

Under his plan, ventilation systems would be adjusted to “maximize outside air intake,” surfaces would be cleaned regularly according to Health Department standards and face coverings would be made available to workers.

Laura Anglin, de Blasio’s deputy mayor of operations, attempted to clarify whether masks would be encouraged in the workplace, or required.

“If an employee cannot socially distance, they will be required to wear a face mask,” she said.

  The city will also make efforts to accommodate workers’ schedules, many of which have changed drastically since the pandemic forced students into remote and blended in-person learning situations.

“We will be doing staggered schedules,” Anglin said. “Making sure that people are in the office sometimes, working remotely sometimes, so we can ensure that we have enough space to keep our employees safe, and with that flexibility, hopefully, employees will be able to deal with remote learning for school and blended learning for school.”

In recent days, de Blasio has criticized Gov. Cuomo for opening fitness classes to the public, but said Tuesday that his plan to bring back office workers are far different because exercise often entails breathing more heavily.

“Different realities,” de Blasio said.

DC 37 President Henry Garrido speaks at a New York City essential workers rally in Foley Square on Thursday, Sep. 3, 2020.
DC 37 President Henry Garrido speaks at a New York City essential workers rally in Foley Square on Thursday, Sep. 3, 2020. (Jeff Bachner/for New York Daily News)

The mayor also said labor unions would be included in the process of reopening office spaces. However, as of Tuesday afternoon, DC 37, the largest municipal workers union in the city still had not received details of the city’s plan, according to a spokeswoman.

“We already know what happens when we are unprepared: too many workers die unnecessarily. We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past,” DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido said. “If the mayor wants to bring back more city workers, he must work with us to ensure it’s done right. We need a guarantee that there will be a mask mandate, personal protective equipment, and regular cleanings.”

Several of San Francisco Bay Area’s largest technology companies including Twitter Inc and Google plan to keep their offices largely closed for months more despite the government allowing them on Tuesday to be opened in a limited capacity.

FILE PHOTO: A sign is pictured outside a Google office near the company's headquarters in Mountain View, California, U.S., May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Paresh Dave/File Photo/File Photo

Taking into account declining coronavirus infections, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties eased guidelines that had kept most office buildings closed for the last year except to crucial security and support staff.

Starting Wednesday, companies are allowed to open up their offices for up to a quarter of their capacity.

“San Francisco is going to come alive,” Mayor London Breed told reporters. “When we start to reopen, more and more people are going to want to return to work and want to be around other folks.”

But Silicon Valley companies that committed last year to allow workers to stay home until this summer or indefinitely said that they stood by their timelines.

They cited their own analyses of public health data, other safety considerations, and workers’ preferences. Adoption of vaccines, which in California are accessible to only the most vulnerable populations, is also a factor but a smaller one.

Networking gear maker Cisco Systems Inc and file-storage service Dropbox Inc said their mandatory work from home policies would remain in effect until June, while Box Inc said its reopening is still scheduled for September.

Pinterest Inc is not eyeing a significant reopening until at least August, Alphabet Inc’s Google until September, and DocuSign Inc not before October.

Twitter, Adobe Inc, PayPal Holdings Inc, Twilio Inc, Yelp Inc, and Zoom Video Communications Inc also will stay closed despite what Breed and other local government officials described as a move to the “orange tier” from the “red tier” of California lockdown restrictions.

Breed’s spokesman Jeff Cretan said San Francisco officials expect smaller and mid-sized companies to be the first to return.


Among the few companies aiming to take advantage of the easing was SAP SE, which said it is strongly considering partially reopening its Bay Area offices within weeks, and Slack Technologies, which is weighing a date to invite back some workers.

San Francisco e-commerce software startup Fast will open its doors - and windows for safety - to up to 25% of its 56 Bay Area employees on Wednesday, spokesman Jason Alderman said. He said the company expects to start getting job applications from people forced to work remotely by their current employers.

“Companies like Fast that are allowing people to come into the office if they want to is going to be a hiring advantage,” he said.

A survey late last year of 9,000 knowledge workers commissioned by workplace chat software company Slack found 20% want to work remotely, 17% in the office, and 63% a mix of the two.

Facebook Inc, whose offices otherwise remain closed globally until July 2, said this month it is opening 10% of seats in Seattle area offices to help workers struggling at home. It did not have similar news to share about its San Francisco offices.

Microsoft Corp, which announced plans on Monday to partially reopen its Redmond, Washington, headquarters next week, did not immediately comment on San Francisco locations.

IBM declined to discuss Bay Area plans. But several senior executives at its New York headquarters have begun working from their offices with doors closed.