NYC Schools Vaccine Mandate Starts, Unpaid Leave for Those Still Refusing to Comply

The New York City COVID-19 vaccine mandate started in classrooms Monday, as those unwilling to comply with the new requirement are no longer allowed to work and are put on unpaid leave by the city, the Associated Press reported.

The new mandate requires all teachers and school staff members to be vaccinated.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city plans to bring in substitute teachers where needed for those still refusing the vaccination.

A group of New York City school employees asked the U.S. Supreme Court for an emergency injunction to block the vaccine mandate on Thursday. The injunction was denied on Friday.

"Our parents need to know their kids will be safe. They entrust us with their children. That's what this mandate is all about. Every adult in our schools is now vaccinated, and that's going to be the rule going forward," Blasio said.

New York City's school system is one of the first in the nation to require the vaccination of all staff members.

Joyce Ramirez, 28, a Bronx parent of three, said she hopes the mandate will help limit school shutdowns, and not only keep the children safe, but also the teachers.

"It's safer for our kids," Ramirez said.

But Mally Diroche, 29, a Bronx parent of three, told AP that masks and other precautionary measures could be an alternative to vaccines to keep children safe.

"I kind of feel like that's a decision they should be able to make on their own," Diroche said.

According to Blasio, 95 percent of school staffers have received at least their first vaccination as of Monday morning. Since the mandate was announced on August 23, around 43,000 teachers who had not been vaccinated complied with the mandate.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Teachers protest the COVID-19 vaccine mandate
New York City started its school COVID-19 vaccine mandate for teachers and staff on Monday. Above, teachers protest the mandate in New York City on August 25, 2021, with signs asking for "freedom of choice" from lawmakers. Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona joined de Blasio's virtual briefing and hailed the vaccine mandate.

"You're doing it right," Cardona said. "Students need to be in the classroom. They need to be safe and we need to make sure we're doing everything possible to let our staff get vaccinated and make sure that our schools are as safe as possible."

Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter said she did not know exactly how many employees had declined the shots and been put on leave.

Implementing the mandate smoothly will be a test for de Blasio, a Democrat who boasted of the city's record of keeping school buildings open during most of the last school year when other districts went to all-remote instruction. New York City is not offering a remote option this year.

The 96 percent teacher vaccination rate cited by the mayor was slightly different from the 97 percent figure provided earlier Monday by United Federation of Teachers head Michael Mulgrew.

A similar mandate is set to go into effect in Los Angeles on October 15.

Many students and parents support the vaccine mandate as the best way to keep schools open during the pandemic.

Cody Miller, a 15-year-old sophomore at a high school in Manhattan, said teachers should all be vaccinated. "I think they should," said the teen, who got vaccinated as soon as the Pfizer shot was approved for people 12 and up. "It's so many kids, it's a big environment, you know?"

Some educators have reservations about the mandate but are complying.

Maurice Jones, 46, a support staff member at a Manhattan middle school, said he got vaccinated months ago but sympathizes with co-workers who have not gotten the shots. "If they've got to get tested more they've got to get tested more," Jones said. "I don't think they should lose their job."

Roxanne Rizzi, who teaches technology at an elementary school in Queens, waited until Friday to get her first shot.

"I had to do it for the finances of my family," she said.

Rizzi, 55, had resisted the vaccine because she contracted COVID-19 in November and believed natural immunity would protect her. She said she would continue to protest the mandate.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people should get vaccinated even if they have already been infected by the virus. The agency said COVID-19 vaccines offer better protection than natural immunity and help prevent getting infected again.

Teachers now required to be vaccinated inNYC
The New York City COVID-19 vaccine mandate started in schools Monday, requiring all teachers and staff to be vaccinated. Above, students are greeted by staffers at school in New York City on September 13, 2021. Richard Drew/Associated Press