NEW YORK — New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for teachers and Department of Education staff went into effect on Monday with 95% of all full-time employees in compliance, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
In a key test of employee vaccination mandates being rolled out across the country, the mayor said 96% of teachers and 99% of principals had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Monday.
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said less than 4,000 teachers remained unvaccinated.
To fill the gaps, the DOE had 9,000 vaccinated substitute teachers and 5,000 vaccinated substitute paraprofessionals ready to be deployed.
“Our parents need to know their kids will be safe,” the mayor said on Monday. “They entrust us with their children. That’s what this mandate is all about. Every adult in our schools is now vaccinated, and that’s going to be the rule going forward.”
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona joined de Blasio’s virtual briefing and hailed the vaccine mandate.
“You’re doing it right,” Cardona said. “Students need to be in the classroom. They need to be safe and we need to make sure we’re doing everything possible to let our staff get vaccinated and make sure that our schools are as safe as possible.”
The vaccination mandate in the nation’s largest school system does not include a test-out option, but does allow for medical and religious exemptions. It was supposed to go into effect last week but was delayed when a federal appeals court granted a temporary injunction. An appeals panel reversed that decision three days later and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor denied a request from a group of teachers to block the mandate on Friday.
All DOE employees who remained unvaccinated were expected to be placed on unpaid leave beginning Monday. Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter said she did not know exactly how many employees had declined the shots and been put on leave.
Protesters against the mandate gathered outside of the the Department of Education headquarters in Brooklyn Monday afternoon.