New York’s COVID vaccine mandate takes effect for teachers and school staff: NPR
John Minchillo / AP
NEW YORK – A COVID-19 vaccination requirement for teachers and other staff went into effect Monday in the sprawling New York City public school system in a key test of the vaccination mandates of deployed employees to across the country.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said 95% of the city’s approximately 148,000 public school staff received at least one dose of the vaccine as of Monday morning, including 96% of teachers and 99% of principals.
Some 43,000 employees have been vaccinated since the mandate was announced on Aug. 23, de Blasio said.
“Our parents need to know that their children will be safe,” the mayor said. “They entrust their children to us. This is the purpose of this mandate. All adults in our schools are now vaccinated, and this will be the rule in the future.”
US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona joined de Blasio’s virtual briefing and praised the vaccine’s mandate.
“You are doing it well,” Cardona said. “Students need to be in the classroom. They need to be safe and we need to make sure that we are doing everything possible to allow our staff to get vaccinated and to make sure our schools are as safe as possible.”
The mayor had warned that unvaccinated school employees would be put on unpaid leave and would not be allowed to work this week. The city planned to bring in replacements where needed.
Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter said she was not sure exactly how many employees had refused injections and had been put on leave.
The smooth implementation of the mandate will be a test for de Blasio, a Democrat who has bragged about the city’s record of keeping school buildings open for most of the last school year, when other districts have switched to distance education. New York City is not offering a remote option this year.
Richard Drew / AP
The vaccination mandate in the country’s largest school system does not include a testing option, but allows for medical and religious exemptions. It was due to go into effect last week, but was delayed when a federal appeals court granted a temporary injunction. An appeal committee overturned that decision three days later.
The 96% teacher vaccination rate cited by the mayor was slightly different from the 97% figure provided earlier Monday by the head of the United Teachers’ Federation, Michael Mulgrew.
Immunization rates increased in all classes of school jobs after the mandate was announced. District Council 37 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which represents some 20,000 employees of the city’s Department of Education, said 93 percent of those workers provided proof of at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday, up from 68% in early September.
Under an agreement with the city, unvaccinated members of District Council 37 who wish to apply for medical or religious exemption have until 5 p.m. Tuesday to do so, union officials said in a statement.
New York’s public school system, with more than one million students, is one of the first in the country to require vaccinations for all staff. A similar mandate is expected to go into effect in Los Angeles on October 15.
A group of teachers and other school employees who had sued New York’s school vaccine mandate on Thursday asked the U.S. Supreme Court for an emergency injunction blocking its implementation. The request was denied on Friday.
Many students and parents support the immunization mandate as the best way to keep schools open during the pandemic.
“It’s safer for our children,” said Joyce Ramirez, 28, who picked up her three children from an elementary school in the Bronx last week.
Ramirez said she hopes this requirement will reduce the chances that teachers will contract the virus and result in class or school closures.
Cody Miller, a 15-year-old sophomore at a Manhattan high school, said teachers should all be vaccinated. “I think they should,” said the teenager, who got himself vaccinated as soon as the Pfizer vaccine was approved for people 12 and older. “It’s so many kids, it’s a great environment, you know?”
But Mally Diroche, another parent from the Bronx, had mixed feelings. “I kind of feel like it’s a decision they should be able to make on their own,” said the mother of three boys aged 3 to 12. Diroche, 29, said she believed masks and other precautions could control the spread of the virus. within schools.
Some educators have reservations about the mandate but comply with it.
Maurice Jones, 46, a Manhattan college support staff member, said he had been vaccinated months ago but sympathized with colleagues who had not received the vaccines. “If they have to get tested more, they have to get tested more,” Jones said. “I don’t think they should lose their jobs.”
Roxanne Rizzi, who teaches technology at a Queens elementary school, waited until Friday to get the coronavirus vaccine.
“I had to do it for my family’s finances,” she said.
Rizzi, 55, had resisted the vaccine because she contracted COVID-19 in November and believed natural immunity would protect her. She said she would continue to protest the warrant.
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people should get vaccinated even if they have already been infected with the virus. The agency says COVID-19 vaccines offer better protection than natural immunity and help prevent getting infected again.