CORONAVIRUS US

Will the covid-19 vaccine be mandatory in NY for teachers?

A US Court of Appeals judge has put a temporary injunction on New York City vaccine mandate for school employees just days before it was set to take effect.

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Will the covid-19 vaccine be mandatory in NY for teachers?
PATRICK T. FALLON AFP

The deadline for Department of Education employees in New York City to be vaccinated was set to go into effect Monday at midnight, but late on Friday a judge for the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals granted a temporary injunction. The case will now go to a three-judge panel on an expedited basis and the Department off Education chancellor is confident there will be a final decision sometime next week upholding mandate.

As the deadline was quickly approaching there were concerns that the mandate would cause a shortage of staff resulting in safety issues at schools. Despite the high percentage of teachers having their jab, there are still thousands that haven’t gotten their covid-19 shot along with around half of staff in non-teaching positions.

Latest setback to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vaccine mandate

Mayor Bill de Blasio issued the covid-19 vaccine mandate at the end of August for all staff in the New York City Department of Education. New York City became the first in the nation to make getting the coronavirus jab mandatory without a test-out option for its roughly 148,000 school employees and contractors who work in schools. “We’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure that everyone is safe and that we push back Delta,” de Blasio said upon announcing the mandate for the largest school system in the nation.

New York City Department of Education employees were required to have at least one dose of covid-19 vaccine by midnight 27 September but the mandate ran into early resistance. The city’s Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers, the union which represent teachers, announced in early September that an arbitrator had ruled alternative work assignments had be offered teachers with medical and religious exemptions.

Furthermore, for those teachers that did not qualify for an exemption and declined to get vaccinated would will be offered unpaid leave through September 2022 and keep their health insurance. Staff that did not accept unpaid leave could resign and take a severance package instead or face discipline.

Judge orders temporary injunction on mandate

Two weeks ago, a group of teachers filed a lawsuit to block the vaccine requirement and were given a temporary injunction but that was lifted on Wednesday. The current injunction came after a Brooklyn federal court judge ruled on Thursday to uphold the vaccine mandate. The temporary block of the requirement will be in place until a three-member panel of the court can review the appeal.

New York Department of Education Chancellor Meisha Porter said in a memo sent to staff Saturday morning she expects the ultimate ruling to be in their favor.

“We’re confident our vaccine mandate will continue to be upheld once all the facts have been presented, because that is the level of protection our students and staff deserve,” the memo read. “Our current vax-or-test mandate remains in effect and we’re seeking speedy resolution by the Circuit Court next week. Over 82 percent of DOE employees have been vaccinated and we continue to urge all employees to get their shot by September 27.”

A decision could be issued before the weekend is out.