NYC Fights for Mandate With 10% of Teachers Unvaccinated
(Bloomberg) -- New York City officials will continue to press for a vaccination mandate covering all school workers, which was set to begin Monday at midnight until it was delayed by a court challenge, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
Already, 90% of teachers and 97% of principals have received their first Covid-19 shot, de Blasio said during a Monday briefing. Out of all Department of Education employees, 87% have their first shot, he said.
The city’s school system, the largest in the U.S., was temporarily blocked by a federal judge from enforcing a mandate forcing teachers and other staff to get vaccinated by Sept. 27 after union officials asked the city to delay the requirement. The mandate would have barred all unvaccinated school workers from entering schools, placing them on unpaid leave. The judge from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit referred the case to a three-judge panel for a hearing that is expected to take place on Wednesday.
“We expect as early as the end of this week we will be going to the full vaccine mandate,” de Blasio said. “We are very, very confident that the city, the Department of Education is going to prevail.”
While the schools vaccine mandate is on hold, more than 150,000 education workers must submit to weekly testing or show proof of vaccination to work in the system.
The city is also facing legal action challenging other vaccine mandates, providing a preview of challenges to come for school districts, hospitals and other employers around the U.S. as they move to impose vaccine requirements on workers and customers.
In addition to the teachers’ case, a federal judge in Brooklyn said Monday he may rule next week on a lawsuit brought by owners of gym, restaurants and other businesses challenging the city’s vaccine requirement for indoor activities.
In a separate case, a three-judge federal court panel is set to consider whether to delay a vaccine mandate affecting health-care workers statewide that doesn’t provide for an exemption on religious grounds. The plaintiffs are nurses who oppose abortion and say they won’t get vaccinated because they were tested or manufactured using cell lines from fetuses aborted in the 1970s and 1980s.
Hospitals have been bracing for potential staff shortages as a Sept. 27 statewide vaccine mandate takes effect and hospitals around the state face another wave of coronavirus cases. Over the weekend, Governor Kathy Hochul released a contingency plan to deal with understaffed health-care facilities, including the possibility of declaring a state of emergency and deploying the National Guard and medical professionals from other states and countries. As of last week, 84% of hospital employees and 77% of nursing home workers in New York state were vaccinated, she said.
In New York City, about 5,000 public hospital workers were still unvaccinated and would go without pay if they remain unvaccinated, said Mitchell Katz, president of the city’s Health & Hospitals Corp. Those who have resisted getting a shot will be given another opportunity before reporting to work, Katz said.
He said more than 90% of the public hospitals’ 43,000 workers were vaccinated, including about 95% of all nurses, and about 99% of the system’s physicians. “All our facilities are open and fully functional,” Katz said.
De Blasio said the potential impact of unvaccinated health-care workers being barred from their jobs would be far less difficult to handle than the staff shortages public and private hospitals experienced during the height of the pandemic last year, when high percentages of workers were kept away because of illness.
“This is a situation much more manageable than we had,” de Blasio said. “We’re going to have the personnel we need.”
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