NYC Requires COVID Shot For All Education Staff

by Julie Scagell

New York City is mandating vaccines for teachers, staff, and principals in all schools

New York City has mandated all Department of Education employees must have at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine by Sept. 27. There will be no option for submitting to weekly testing to prove a negative Covid result.

The new requirement, announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio, will impact over 148,000 city employees, including teachers, principals, custodians, and all administrative staff. “We know this is going to help ensure that everyone is safe,” de Blasio said during a news conference on Monday. He said he will begin working immediately with city labor unions to roll out the mandate. He also added the school system had a low transmission rate last year and hopes to “build on that success.”

The mayor stopped short of a mandate for students and staff, a move Culver City Unified School District, a suburb within Los Angeles, California, announced last week for all who are eligible for the vaccine. They were the first district in the nation to mandate that all students over 12 receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Chicago is also mandating vaccines for teachers.

New York is the largest public school district in the country, with approximately one million students attending.

Education staffers are the first group of city workers to face a full vaccine mandate. The announcement also opens the door to a broader vaccine mandate of city workers, which the mayor said Monday the city was considering. Last month, Mr. de Blasio issued a mandate for city workers that allowed for those unvaccinated to submit for weekly coronavirus testing.

“Our first priority is keeping our kids safe and the schools open. The city’s teachers have led the way on this issue, with the great majority already vaccinated,” said United Federation of Teachers’ president Michael Mulgrew. “While the city is asserting its legal authority to establish this mandate, there are many implementation details, including provisions for medical exceptions, that by law must be negotiated with the UFT and other unions, and if necessary, resolved by arbitration.”

It’s still up in the air what will happen if DOE employees choose not to comply with the mandate. The city announced last month that those that don’t comply with either a vaccine or weekly testing would be suspended without pay, so there will likely be a similar consequence with the new, stricter mandate.

“There is just no doubt about the urgency of this measure when delta continues to rage nationally,” said Chair of the New York City Council Committee on Health Mark Levine at the press conference. “Even in a city that where vaccination is as far along as it is in New York City, delta still finds a way to spread… we have to push harder to get everyone the life-saving benefit of vaccination.”