Clock Ticks for NYC Teachers to Get COVID Shot or Risk Losing Their Jobs

The city had announced last month that school employees would have to get at least a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine by Sept. 27

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What to Know

  • A vaccine mandate for New York City’s public school teachers and other staffers can go forward as planned next week, after a state judge lifted a temporary restraining order
  • A coalition of city unions had filed a lawsuit against the mandate and had asked for the injunction against its implementation
  • State Supreme Court Justice Laurence Love put the TRO in place last week, but removed it in his ruling on Wednesday

New York City rolled out another vaccine day of action on Thursday across the five boroughs' public schools, a day after a state judge lifted a temporary restraining order on the vaccine mandate for teachers and other staffers.

The city had announced last month that school employees would have to get at least a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine by Sept. 27, impacting about 148,000 school workers and contractors, and it can now go forward as planned. Unlike the vaccine mandate for the city's 300,000 employees, educators will not have the option undergo weekly COVID-19 testing to remain in their jobs.

Those who have not gotten the shot now have less than five days to do so. Parents have mixed reactions but many agreed that vaccination can help protect kids under 12 who are unable to get the vaccine.

"I do think it's fair. It makes me feel that my son is safer and will have more continuity in his teachers if they don't get sick," said parent Marcia Stern.

A coalition of city unions had filed a lawsuit against the mandate and had asked for the injunction against its implementation. State Supreme Court Justice Laurence Love put the TRO in place last week, but removed it in his ruling on Wednesday.

Starting Thursday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will step up mask enforcement throughout its transit system in an attempt to increase mask usage as the city continues to grapple with the ongoing pandemic. NBC New York's Romney Smith reports.

In a statement, the Department of Education said the ruling was “a big win for New York City children and Department of Education employees. Their health and safety is at the very core of this vaccine mandate, and we are pleased the court recognized the city’s legal authority.”

The officials with the unions said they intended to continue the legal action.

“We are deeply disappointed that the temporary injunction has been lifted," Henry Garrido, executive director of DC 37, said in a statement. “This is not the end of the road and we will continue to fight for the right of workers to make their own healthcare decisions."

Another parent, Randy Vasquez, told NBC New York that he agrees with the union that the mandate is unfair but he also believes that it will protect kids.

Judge Love said he had initially ordered the injunction because the city's original mandate didn't say anything about medical or religious exemptions, but said the city subsequently put out language saying nothing in the mandate would prohibit accommodations that are legally required.

Students react to COVID-19 outbreak in NJ. Chris Glorioso reports.

He said that removed the need for the injunction, and also doubted the unions' ultimately being able to succeed in their claim that their due process rights were being violated.

“The state and federal courts have consistently held that a mandatory vaccine requirement does not violate substantive due process rights and properly fall within the state’s police power," Love wrote.

The city’s mandate that teachers and staff get vaccinated is relatively rare in the U.S. Other states and districts have imposed rules requiring vaccines or weekly tests for the virus.

Unlike other school districts, New York City is not offering any remote instruction this school year, despite concerns about the highly contagious delta variant’s ability to spread. De Blasio has said children need to be back in school for their mental and physical health and social development.

New York is also requiring vaccinations for student-athletes and coaches in “high risk” sports like football, basketball and wrestling. De Blasio said Monday that he’s not yet considering a broader vaccine requirement for all eligible students, despite Pfizer's announcement Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11 and that it will seek U.S. authorization for that age group.

Pfizer said Monday early trial results indicate its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for children ages 5 to 11
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