NYC Survives Court Challenge to School Vaccine Mandate

Karen Matthews and Larry Neumeister, Associated Press

October 05, 2021

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City survived a court challenge to its school vaccination mandate Tuesday, while hospitals across the state reported few disruptions to their services because of the COVID-19 vaccine requirement for health care workers.

U.S. District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil in Manhattan rejected a request to temporarily block the vaccine mandate that New York City began enforcing Monday for Department of Education employees. She said a lawsuit filed on behalf of several teachers and other school employees did not meet requirements of irreparable harm, likelihood of success or public interest.

Vyskocil said she could not "ignore the harm that could take place if the schoolchildren were exposed to the risk of COVID" if she gave temporary relief from a mandate meant to protect them.

"If the harm happens, it's a harm that cannot be undone," she said.

The lawsuit was the latest of several challenges to the school vaccination requirement, which Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday has been a resounding success.

"Every one of our 1,600 New York City public schools opened," the mayor said at a virtual news briefing. "The mandates have worked. We need to use them more and more all over the country."

De Blasio said 95% of Department of Education employees had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose by Monday. There were more than enough substitutes available to cover for the roughly 3,000 teachers who were not in school because they had not been inoculated, he said.

Asked when the city might expand the vaccination requirement to other departments such as the police, de Blasio said it was "a discussion we'll be having over the next few days."

The New York City school vaccination rule took effect one week after the statewide vaccination mandate for hospital and nursing home workers.

Northwell Health, New York state's largest health care provider, said Monday that 1,400 employees had been terminated for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The terminations represent less than 2% of the total workforce of Northwell, which runs 23 hospitals and more than 700 outpatient facilities across the state.

"Northwell believes that having a fully vaccinated workforce is an important measure in our duty to protect the health and safety of our staff, our patients and the communities we serve," company officials said in a statement.

The officials said all of Northwell's facilities remain open and fully operational.

Other hospital networks said they had lost only a few hundred workers over the mandate.

NewYork-Presbyterian said more than 99% of its 37,000 employees and 11,000 affiliated doctors met the vaccination requirement. Fewer than 250 chose not to comply and no longer work at NewYork-Presbyterian, officials with the health care system said.

A spokesperson for the University of Rochester Medical Center said that more than 20,000 of the six-hospital system's employees have been vaccinated and fewer than 300 have resigned rather than get a shot.

The statewide health care vaccination mandate will be expanded Thursday to include home care, hospice and adult care facility workers.

Jennifer Peltz contributed reporting.