NYC Mayor de Blasio Extends Vaccine Mandate To Include Staff at Private, Religious Schools

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday an expansion of previous orders mandating COVID vaccines for public school employees to include all staff at private and religious schools, The Associated Press reported.

An estimated 56,000 employees of the city's 938 nonpublic schools will have to show proof of at least one dose by Dec. 20.

Rabbi David Zwiebel, chairman of the Committee of NYC Religious and Independent School Officials, wrote a letter to de Blasio stating the committee "firmly opposes" the decision.

"While we support and generally encourage COVID vaccination in our schools, and while in fact the large majority of our schools' employees are so vaccinated, most of our schools do not insist upon such vaccination as a condition of employment. Many of our schools view COVID vaccination as a matter most appropriately left to individual choice, not governmental fiat," Zwiebel wrote in the letter.

The previous mandates covered the largest public school system in the country starting in October, with an extension that included the city's police officers, firefighters and sanitation workers.

Employees who did not adhere to the public school mandate were previously placed on unpaid leave, but over 95 percent have been vaccinated in compliance with the mandate, according to The New York Times. The number is well above the reported rate of about 77 percent of New Yorkers that are vaccinated.

Earlier this week, de Blasio announced a separate extension of the order to include other child care workers in the city as the city prepares for a likely uptick of cases from the recently-discovered omicron COVID variant.

For more reporting from The Associated Press, see below.

Bill de Blasio, New York City, Vaccine
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks to members of the media at the 95th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Inflation on the Upper West Side on Nov. 24, 2021 in New York City. de Blasio announced Thursday an extension of previous vaccine mandates to include private and religious school employees who will have to show proof of at least one dose by Dec. 20. Alexi Rosenfeld/WireImage via Getty Images

"We're doing everything in our power to protect our students and school staff, and a mandate for nonpublic school employees will help keep our school communities and youngest New Yorkers safe," de Blasio said in a statement.

City Hall officials said vaccinations will be offered at any private or religious schools that request them and the city will work with school officials to prepare for the mandate's deadline and ensure they comply.

City officials did not immediately respond to questions about how many of the private school employees are already vaccinated and how the city would enforce the mandate at private schools.

Public school teachers and staff who did not comply with the city's earlier order were placed on unpaid leave.

Zwiebel said a small number of unvaccinated employees will likely continue to resist getting the shots and leave schools struggling to fill vacancies.

Most of New York City's COVID-19 vaccine mandates have been met with legal challenges but were largely allowed by the courts to go into effect.

New York state is among a handful of states that eliminated the religious exemption to vaccine requirements for school children. The 2019 move came amid the nation's worst measles outbreak in decades, with a majority of cases from outbreaks in New York in Orthodox Jewish communities.