New York Governor Kathy Hochul remains committed to the state's attempts to enact COVID-19 vaccination mandates for certain industries after a federal judge temporarily blocked the state from enforcing the rules on medical workers, a group of which claimed the lack of religious exemptions in the rules violates their Constitutional rights.
The state issued the order on August 27, requiring a first shot for health care workers at hospitals and nursing homes no later than September 27, the same day employees at New York City schools are required to do the same.
On Wednesday, Gov. Hochul said she would appeal the judge's ruling, saying New Yorkers shouldn't have to worry about contracting COVID-19 from a health professional of all people.
"People need to start realizing that when you stand up and say you want to be a public health official in any capacity you have to be healthy yourselves," Hochul said. "Yes, there will be some individuals who will try to defy this. There will be court decisions that we'll appeal — we're going to continue appealing those and try to appeal on the merits. It's the smart thing to do. We have to continue the mandates."
She added that the state will supply resources to any facilities that lose staff due to the mandate.
A federal judge temporarily blocked the state's medical worker vaccine mandate on Tuesday, after 17 doctors and nurses sued, claiming the rules should have "sincere" religious exemptions. They say the vaccine mandates run afoul of the U.S. Constitution and the New York State Human Rights Law as currently written.
The lawsuit clarifies that the plaintiffs are all Christians, who oppose the COVID vaccines on religious grounds because of the manner in which they were tested. They are not "anti-vaxxers" who oppose all vaccines.
The state has until Sept. 22 to respond to the lawsuit. An oral hearing would occur on Sept. 28 if New York indeed follows through with its appeal.
Religious leaders of many faiths have come down on different sides of the vaccine issue, though no major religious denomination opposes vaccination. Even the Vatican issued a statement last year that said the COVID vaccines are "morally acceptable."
In the New York medical community, the lawsuit and the temporary injunction was met with disappointment.
Dr. Joseph R. Sellers of the Medical Society of the State of New York tells NBC New York that the vaccine mandates are an important step towards reversing the surge of the delta variant.
He added that "the Supreme Court has for over 100 years upheld vaccination requirements as a means to protect public health."