NEW YORK (PIX11) — New York City’s requirement that all of its employees be vaccinated came to an end on Friday. Reaction to the change was met with frustration and anger by many of the nearly 1,800 workers who had lost their jobs because they refused to get a COVID-19 shot, and they now face hurdles in getting their old positions back.

Michael Kane, who has protested repeatedly over the last two years against the vaccination requirement, is speaking out again now against how the city is reversing its policy covering its 330,000 employees.

“For declining COVID vaccination,” said Kane, who’d been a special education teacher in the Department of Education for 14 years, “I was put on unpaid leave in October 2021, and I was officially and formally fired in February 2022.”

He said that he, as well as many people who had lost jobs for which they’re eligible again, are still protesting. Now, though, the protests are in the form of lawsuits against the city over how it’s requiring many employees to reapply to their old jobs.

“They’re forcing you to sign a waiver,” Kane said in an interview, “that says that you are waiving back pay for the time that you were fired, and you also need to sign away your civil rights and say you won’t sue the city.”

He is carrying out legal action against the city government over his dismissal, and said that that’s why he’s not going back into the classroom for now.

In the classrooms of the city’s more than 1,800 schools, not only are teachers, staff and administrators no longer required to show proof of vaccination as of Friday, but visitors are no longer required to prove vaccination either.

At P.S./M.S. 123 in Harlem, reactions from parents about the change were mixed.

Raquea Hemingway, who was picking up her second grader from school, said that she remains concerned about COVID-19.

“It’s still being transmitted,” she said, “so it’s very necessary for that process to still be in place.”

Another parent, Marquea Garrett, only learned of the change when approached for comment by PIX11 News. She said that she was pleased to learn about the changes.

“You don’t want people to go through the hardship” of having to prove vaccination every time, she said. “It’s a lot of hardship on people.”

Ileana Cuprill was with one of her two children at pick up time at P.S./M.S. 123. She was unhappy about the policy change.

“We still don’t know the long-term effects of COVID and what it can do,” she said. “I have a 6-year-old. I feel safer if I knew that people were taking precautions to keep themselves safe, so my son can be safe.”

There is a need for people to still take precautions, according to many medical professionals. New York State Acting Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald warned this week that people should take coronavirus seriously.

“I want to underscore the pandemic is not over,” Dr. McDonald said on a panel discussion on Thursday. “We are in a period of transition, however,” he said.

Resonating that sentiment on Friday was Dr. Purvi Parikh of the Allergy and Asthma Network. She is a specialist in respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19 in her private practice and at NYU Langone Medical Center.

“I’m still seeing a lot of COVID cases, very frequently,” she said in an interview. “Luckily, people are able to recover at home because of vaccinations that they’ve had because of the use and availability of antivirals.”

She said that people have to keep in mind that the virus is still a problem, even though some mandates are being lifted.

“There’s still a lot of factors to consider,” Dr. Parikh said, “but absolutely we’re in a much better place than we were last winter, [and] the winter before.”

New York state is lifting its requirement that people wear masks in hospitals and other medical facilities, starting on Sunday, Feb. 12.

A number of public employee unions are pursuing legal actions against the city over its requirement that city workers reapply for their jobs and not receive back pay, among other issues.

PIX11 News requested comment from the city about the legal challenges. City Hall has yet to respond.