New York City schools are going back to their previous policy of vaccination or weekly COVID testing for employees after the city's vaccine mandate was blocked for the second time.
The latest temporary injunction came just a few days after a state judge upheld the legality of the city's vaccination policy, saying Department of Education employees failed to prove how the requirement caused them harm.
But the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the vaccine mandate late-Friday, setting a new hearing for this coming Wednesday.
In response, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would revert to the previous vaccination or weekly test rules as a stopgap until the legal challenge is resolved.
An attorney for the Department of Education employees told reporters that plaintiffs in the lawsuit simply want a weekly test option for those who either do not want to be inoculated against COVID or do not want to disclose their vaccination status.
"Quite many of them are not anti-vaccination. They're anti-mandate," attorney Louis Gelormino told NBC New York. "I think the true thing that united them all is that they're the only municipal workers in New York City that are being forced to get this vaccination and they're the only school teachers in New York state that are being forced to get this vaccination."
Mayor de Blasio said Monday that at least 87 percent of all DOE personnel have at least one dose of the vaccine, including 90 percent of teachers and 97 percent of principals.
The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) has encouraged vaccination among its ranks. The union says at least 97 percent of members are at least partially vaccinated.
While unvaccinated staff have been granted a few additional days to work, NYC Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter sent a memo out telling schools to be prepared for the possibility that the mandate will go into effect this week. The city believes there are enough vaccinated substitutes to cover any staff openings that result from noncompliance.
De Blasio is confident the mandate will hold up to scrutiny, noting that a federal court refused to block Key to NYC, the mandate that requires restaurants, gyms, theaters and other city venues to check patrons' vaccination at the door.
New York State's vaccination mandate for healthcare workers takes effect today, with healthcare employees who refuse inoculation subject to suspension or termination. About 12 percent of employees at NYC hospitals are not yet vaccinated, according to the city. That number is slightly higher upstate.
There is widespread concern that the healthcare mandate will lead to staffing shortages, though Gov. Hochul has vowed to allocate resources wherever necessary, arguing that healthcare workers must take every step possible to keep patients safe from COVID. The governor's mandate is backed by major state healthcare groups.
Hochul turned up the pressure on healthcare workers, announcing recently that those terminated because of a refusal to be vaccinated will not be eligible for unemployment insurance unless they have a doctor-approved request for a medical accommodation.