Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vaccine mandate for all Department of Education employees can now proceed after a federal panel lifted a temporary ban on the order late Monday night.
The mandate, which would require all 150,000 DOE employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination, was originally scheduled to go into effect Monday morning. But a federal judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Second Circuit filed a temporary injunction against the order last Friday and referred the case to a three-person panel for review.
The review was slatted for Wednesday but in a surprise turn of events, the federal panel issued its ruling Monday evening granting New York City the authority to go ahead as planned with the mandate.
Under the mandate, all DOE employees had until midnight Sept. 27 to submit proof of having received at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. After the panel ruling, de Blasio moved back the deadline granting staffers, including about 78,000 public school teachers, until the end of day Friday, Oct. 1 to upload proof of vaccination. Until then, the City will follow its previous vax-and-test policy for all school staffers.
Although the majority of school staffers are vaccinated, the DOE believes about 87% of all its employees have gotten at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, some school staffers and union representatives worried the vaccine mandate would cause a staffing shortage of about 10,000 people.
Some labor unions cheered the federal panel’s ruling on Monday while also urging City officials to use the next week to ensure the city’s roughly 1,800 public schools have enough vaccinated staff to serve students.
And even though City officials say 97% of all public school teachers are at least partially vaccinated, a recent survey from the city´s teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers, found that only a third of educators believe their school could open without disruption due to the potential shortage of unvaccinated staff like school aids and security guards, according to the union’s president Michael Mulgrew.
“The city has a lot of work before it to ensure that enough vaccinated staff will be available by the new deadline,” said Mulgrew in a statement. “We will be working with our members to ensure, as far as possible, that our schools can open safely as the vaccine mandate is enforced.”
“If the city’s vaccination mandate had gone into effect today, there would have been too many schools and early childhood centers unable to operate safely due to a citywide staffing shortage,” said Mark Cannizzaro, president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators which represents public school principals. “We urge the DOE to use the additional time to quickly address all schools with potential staffing concerns.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the deadline DOE employees have to submit proof of vaccination was by 5:00m p.m. Monday, Oct. 4. The actual deadline is 5:00 p.m. by Friday, Oct. 1.