New York City’s Covid vaccine mandate for school staff blocked by judge

New York City schools have been temporarily blocked from enforcing a vaccine mandate for teachers and other workers by a federal appeals judge, days before it was to take effect.

The worker mandate for the the largest US school system was set to go into effect on Monday.

Late on Friday, a judge for the second US circuit court of appeals granted a temporary injunction and referred the case to a three-judge panel on an expedited basis.

A Department of Education spokeswoman, Danielle Filson, said officials were seeking a speedy resolution next week.

“We’re confident our vaccine mandate will continue to be upheld once all the facts have been presented, because that is the level of protection our students and staff deserve,” Filson said.

The New York Post reported that the department sent an email to principals on Saturday morning saying they “should continue to prepare for the possibility that the vaccine mandate will go into effect later in the week”.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in August that about 148,000 school employees would have to get at least a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccination by 27 September. The policy covers teachers along with other staffers, such as custodians and cafeteria workers.

It’s the first no-test-option vaccination mandate for a broad group of city workers in the nation’s most populous city. And it mirrors a similar statewide mandate for hospital and nursing home workers set to go into effect on Monday.

As of Friday, 82% of department employees had been vaccinated, including 88% of teachers. Even though most school workers have been vaccinated, unions representing principals and teachers warned that could still leave the 1 million-student school system short of as many as 10,000 teachers, along with other staffers.

De Blasio has resisted calls to delay the mandate, insisting the city was ready.

“We’ve been planning all along,” the Democrat said in a radio interview on Friday. “We have a lot of substitutes ready. A lot is going to happen between now and Monday but beyond that we are ready even to the tune of if we need thousands, we have thousands.”

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