Appeals court rules in favor of COVID vaccine mandate for schools, health care

A three-judge panel ruled against a temporary injunction that blocked the COVID vaccine mandate from taking effect at New York City schools and in New York state healthcare settings.

Workers in the nation’s largest school system were to be required to show vaccination proof starting Monday. But late Friday, a judge for the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the temporary injunction which was sought by a group of teachers.

Monday evening the appeals court ruled against blocking the mandate.

Mayor Bill de Blasio says he is now giving all school employees until the end of the day Friday to get vaccinated.  He says that will mean that on Monday, Oct. 4 2021, 100% of educators and staff in public schools will be vaccinated.

On Monday, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew told FOX 5 NY morning program, Good Day New York that despite the injunction the schools' health screening platform was informing unvaccinated staffers that they could not enter the school building.

"We informed the Department of Ed of this at about 5 o'clock this morning that their computer system for what's called COVID Pass was wrong and was going to cause problems," said Mulgrew.

The UFT head also said that many schools felt they were not prepared to handle the vaccine mandate before the injunction was made. 

The New York Post reported that the department sent an email to principals 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 Sept. 27. The policy covers teachers, along with other staffers, such as custodians and cafeteria workers.

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

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A judge Friday blocked the mandate for religious exemptions for health care workers. For all other employees, refusing the shots would result in suspension and termination.

With thousands of workers still thought to be holding out, hospital administrators prepared contingency plans that included cutting back on noncritical services and limiting admissions at nursing homes.

RELATED: Vaccine deadline arrives for NY hospital, nursing home workers

Gov. Kathy Hochul said this weekend she was prepared to call in medically trained National Guard members and retirees, or vaccinated workers from outside the state, to fill any gaps. The governor has held firm on the mandate in the face of pleas to delay it and multiple lawsuits challenging its constitutionality.

The rules apply not just to people like doctors and nurses, but also to others who work in health care institutions, like food service workers, administrators and cleaners.

The mandate comes as hospitals are already reeling from staff shortages fueled in part by workers retiring and employees seeking other jobs after 18 months of the pandemic.

Health care workers can apply for a religious exemption, at least for now. A federal judge on Oct. 12 will consider a legal challenge arguing that such exemptions are constitutionally required.

As of Friday, 82% of department employees have been vaccinated, including 88% of teachers.

Even though most school workers have been vaccinated, unions representing New York City 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.

With the Associated Press