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De Blasio issues COVID-19 vaccine mandate for student athletes playing high-risk sports

Mayor Bill de Blasio
Photo by Mark Hallum

Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a COVID-19 vaccine mandate Friday for the roughly 20,000 New York City public school athletes who play high-risk sports like football, volleyball and wrestling. 

The mayor broke the news during his almost weekly interview on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show” with less than a month to go before the start of the fall semester on Sept. 13. 

De Blasio’s order comes a week after the New York State Education Department released a 21-page-long health and safety guide for schools, virtually identical to current guidance from The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. 

In its guidance, NYSED recommends that schools located in areas with high COVID-19 transmission rates cancel all high-risk sports and activities like band and choir unless all participating students are vaccinated. 

Vaccine-eligible students interested in playing a high-risk sport this fall must get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before the start of competitive play, which differs by sport. For two popular fall sports, football and volleyball, the window for vaccination is slowly closing with the first day of competitive play for the sports starting on Sept. 3 and Sept. 27 respectively. 

Student athletes hoping to play in the winter or spring must be fully vaccinated by the start of those seasons and students taking part in bowling will also need to be vaccinated since it takes place in a space that requires vaccination, according to a Department of Education spokesperson.  The DOE considers football, wrestling, ice hockey, rugby, basketball, volleyball, lacrosse, dance, cheerleading as high-risk sports. 

The vaccine requirement for some student-athletes is the latest step by officials to drive up vaccination rates among public school students returning to schools for a full reopening this fall. 

So far, about 56% of all vaccine-eligible children in New York City, or roughly 300,000 kids between the ages of 12 and 17 have received at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the only inoculation granted emergency approval for use among children. The DOE has not specified how many of those partially and potentially vaccinated children are public school students. 

As part of “vaccine blitz” geared toward the city’s young people, mobile vaccination sites will visit public school athletic league practices this fall. 

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