New York City can move forward with its requirement that all Department of Education employees be vaccinated against COVID-19, including teachers, principals and support staff, after a federal appeals panel ruled in the case late Monday.
Lawyers for the teachers suing over the mandate say they will take their argument to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Teachers and school staff will have until this weekend to get vaccinated. The city will implement the vaccine requirement starting Monday, October 4, according to the Department of Education and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The mandate was initially set to go into effect this past Monday, September 27. But the same three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan that upheld the mandate temporarily blocked it on Friday.
Oral arguments had been set for Wednesday, but the appeals panel issued its order late-Monday after written arguments were submitted by both sides.
City lawyers argued that vaccination mandates have been upheld for over a century in the U.S. They wrote that the choice of some teachers “to remain unvaccinated while teaching vulnerable schoolchildren is dwarfed by the public’s interest in safely resuming full school operations for a million public school students and ensuring that caregivers citywide can send their children to school secure in the knowledge that sound safety protocols are in place.”
Lawyers for the DOE employees arguing against the vaccine mandate warn that with the mandate upheld for now the city could face shortages of teachers and school staff.
But Mayor de Blasio is confident that will not be a major issue. He said last week that the NYC School district has thousands of substitutes ready to work in place of school staff who refuse to comply with the mandate.
By Monday, 87 percent of all Department of Education employees had been vaccinated, including 91 percent of teachers and 97 percent of principals.
New York City's vaccine mandate impacts about 148,000 school workers and contractors.
The city's largest teacher's union, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), estimated that as of Monday about 97 percent of its members had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, leaving about 6,000 of its members unvaccinated. Of that unvaccinated group, about 3,000 applied for medical exemptions. A few hundred medical exemptions had been approved as of Friday, according to the mayor.
A vaccination requirement for New York State healthcare workers was recently upheld in court as well. That order went into effect Monday.
While many state medical facilities reported having to terminate some workers or place workers on unpaid leave due to the mandate, they also reported a late surge in vaccinations ahead of the deadline, bringing the vaccination rate of state hospital staff to around 92 percent, according to Governor Kathy Hochul's office.