COVID vaccine mandate takes effect for teachers and staff in New York

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NEW YORK (AP) – 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 ongoing employee vaccination mandates deployment 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 doses have been administered since the warrant 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’re doing it right,” Cardona said. “The students have to be in the classroom. They need to be safe and we need to make sure that we do everything we can 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.

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 this decision three days later and a request to the Supreme Court because an injunction was also refused.

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.

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.

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 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.

Some people vocally opposed to the vaccination warrants protested on Monday. A video posted to social media showed protesters marching through locations across the city, including outside a Brooklyn Department of Education building, carrying signs saying things such as, “Resist the medical tyranny! “

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.

COVID-19 vaccines licensed in the United States have been tested on tens of thousands of people and have been shown to be both safe and effective in dramatically reducing the risk of serious illness and death. The vaccines have now been given to over 200 million Americans and this real-world use along with additional government safety monitoring has made it clear that serious side effects are extremely rare – and that any risk is fine. lower than the risks posed by COVID-19.

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This story has been corrected to show that 43,000 is the estimated number of vaccine doses administered since August 23, not the number of employees who have been vaccinated.

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Associated Press writers Jennifer Peltz and Michelle L. Price contributed to this report.


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