This Monday, September 27, was a key day in the State of New York and its fight against covid-19. The deadline for teachers in the public system – the most extensive in the country – to present a proof of vaccination of at least one dose, under the mandate issued last month by the mayor of the city, Democrat Bill de Blasio. But the medical or religious reluctance of some teachers, together with the powerful action of the unions that represent them, have delayed and complicated the process.
In a supposedly final ruling, a court made up of three judges today ruled that the mandate that mandates vaccination to be able to work in public centers in New York City, suspended by an appeals court since last Friday , must be applied. That is, the mandatory vaccination of more than 150,000 employees in public schools will go ahead as planned, or the rebels will face cuts in their payroll. The sentence of the three judges comes a few days ahead of the expected term, ending a judicial soap opera – at the request of the teachers’ unions – that has already registered two postponements by both state and federal courts in recent weeks.
The municipal mandate is the strictest prescription to date directed at a professional group, and its sanction by the latest court could open the door to a much broader mandate for all employees of the local or state Administration in the coming weeks. De Blasio recalled this Monday that about 97% of the directors of the centers and 95% of the teachers are vaccinated, while among the auxiliary personnel of the schools the percentage of immunization with at least one dose reaches 87%. Some 8,000 employees of the city’s Department of Education were vaccinated this weekend as the ultimatum imminent. De Blasio’s mandate concerns only adults who work in the centers, since students are not required to be vaccinated to attend class, unlike cities like Los Angeles, which do require it.
The unions have urged Mayor De Blasio to extend the vaccination period, arguing that the centers will not be able to cope with the foreseeable shortage of teachers and employees that can result from a strict application of the mandate. A risk that, at another level of the Administration, the state, faces the network of hospitals in New York. The governor, Katy Hochul, has anticipated this weekend that she will turn to the National Guard – a body of volunteer reservists – to alleviate the absenteeism of all those health workers who, after today’s deadline, have not been vaccinated. Democrat Hochul has also expressed her intention to summon unemployed, retired or other health workers to replace the tens of thousands of workers who are likely to lose their jobs for not presenting the vaccination proof on time. In a statement issued by her office, the governor raises the possibility of declaring a state of emergency to address the shortage of personnel and the aforementioned emergency measures to remedy it.
The mayor of New York pointed out on this Monday that he is not afraid that the possibility of massive absenteeism will be experienced in the city, where the vaccination rate is high, but it is in smaller towns in the state, lagging behind in the immunization process and forced to cut services or even postpone scheduled operations due to lack of staff. Meanwhile, hospitals are preparing to fire tens of thousands of employees who do not comply, for medical reasons (such as allergies) or religious objections, with the mandate. This is the case, among others, of the network of hospitals dependent on the University of New York, which has warned its workers that those who resist the vaccine will be “immediately suspended and pending dismissal.” The vaccination mandate for health personnel was issued last month by the Department of Health.
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