At least 95 percent of all full-time Department of Education (DOE) staff in New York City public schools were at least partially-vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Monday, October 4, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The 5 percent of school staff members who aren't vaccinated were placed on unpaid leave, per the city's vaccination mandate, which has so far held up to legal scrutiny.
De Blasio reported Monday that 95 percent of DOE staff met the vaccination requirements, including 96 percent of teachers and 99 percent of principals.
"Our parents needed to know their kids would be safe," de Blasio said Monday. "They entrust us with their children. It's one of the most sacred things when a parent says to a school community, 'I am letting you have my child for the school day. Please help them to grow. Please help them to learn. But you gotta keep them safe.'"
Last Monday, with the city mandate delayed, the mayor said that the vaccination rate among NYC public school teachers was at about 90 percent. But by the end of the day, the mandate was reinstated by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals with a new enforcement date: October 4.
The already high vaccination rate among NYC teachers then jumped 3 percent by Friday and another 3 percent by the start of classes today. NYC Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter says the "incredible surge" in vaccinations included 18,000 shots since Friday.
DOE employees who cannot comply with the mandate have been placed on unpaid leave. The city is bringing in substitutes as necessary. Unvaccinated employees may return to work once they get their first vaccine dose.
Lawyers for the employees suing the city over the lack of exemptions in the mandate have yet to hear from the U.S. Supreme Court — their last legal recourse — regarding their appeal.
They argue that education workers are unfairly targeted by the vaccination mandate and that it violates their Constitutional right to pursue an occupation.
Roughly 200 anti-mandate demonstrators protested the rules in front of the Department of Education offices in Brooklyn Monday. They then marched toward the Brooklyn Bridge.
Lawyers for the city argue that vaccine mandates have held up in U.S. courts for nearly a century. They say that public school employees' decision to remain unvaccinated "is dwarfed by the public’s interest in safely resuming full school operations for a million public school students..."
The mayor's office did not provide the exact number of DOE staffers placed on unpaid leave but reiterated that the city has plenty of substitutes available.
The United Federation of Teachers — the city's largest teachers union — says 97 percent of its members have received at least one dose of the vaccine.