Testing continues amid NYC schools vaccine mandate back-and-forth

Reopening Schools

Update: An appeals court ruled in favor of the vaccine mandate later Monday evening. Click here for full coverage on the ruling.

NEW YORK CITY — A vaccine mandate for New York City public school staff meant to begin Monday — with enforcement set for Tuesday — was temporarily blocked by a judge, with the fate of school buildings remaining uncertain in the long term.

While the mandate was meant in-part to encourage vaccination among teachers and staff, at least 90% of teachers and 97% of principals are already vaccinated. Among school staff, 87% have at least one dose, according to city data. 

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As of Monday, all unvaccinated school staff will be tested weekly — and that’s what the attorney representing more than 28,000 teachers and DOE employee is asking for in court. 

“You get the vaccine, or if you don’t listen to us, we’re taking your livelihood away, and not only that we’re not even giving you the option to go in and work anywhere else, so you can’t provide for your family any longer,” said attorney Louis Gelormino, pushing back against the mandate.

The way the mandate currently reads, unvaccinated school staff would be suspended without pay; they’d keep health insurance benefits for one year.

The mayor has insisted the city has the staff to pick up the slack if teachers do not follow the mandate — if a judge rules in favor of it.

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A court hearing is expected for Wednesday.

President of the United Federation of Teachers Michael Mulgrew told PIX11 the temporary block gives them more time to plan in the case a mandate goes through in the future.

He criticized the mayor and city for trying to enforce the mandate in the beginning, saying it “made no sense.”

Mulgrew said on the PIX11 Morning News Monday that less than 6,000 UFT members who work in schools remain unvaccinated, which is about 5% of the union.

Department of Education spokesperson Danielle Filson said Friday that officials are seeking a speedy resolution and that the circuit court has the motion on its calendar for Wednesday.

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“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,” Filson said in an email to the Associated Press.

The temporary injunction is separate from a state Supreme Court judge’s ruling on Wednesday that allowed the city to move forward with the mandate. The state Supreme Court’s decision was related to a similar lawsuit filed by a coalition of unions representing public school workers.

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