Federal judge taps the brake on NYC public school vaccine mandate

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NEW YORK — An appeals court judge has tossed a monkey wrench into the city’s demand that teachers and other adults in public schools be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Monday, buying time for the city's Department of Education workers who are resisting a jab.

In a Friday night order, Judge Joseph Bianco of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit granted a temporary injunction against Mayor Bill de Blasio’s order, and referred the case to a three judge panel for review.

The halt on the vaccine demand came just a day after U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan gave the green light for an order affecting about 149,000 DOE workers.

According to the DOE, 82% of its employees are vaccinated — including 88% of its 78,000 teachers and 95% of 1,600 principals,.

“We’re confident our vaccine mandate will continue to be upheld once all the facts have been presented, because that is the level of protection our students and staff deserve,” said DOE spokeswoman Danielle Filson.

“Our current vax-or-test mandate remains in effect and we’re seeking speedy resolution by the Circuit Court next week… we continue to urge all employees to get their shot by (Monday).”

In his Thursday decision upholding the mandate, Cogan said he understood concerns from some workers about long-term effects of the vaccines, lamenting “no one will get the last laugh it it turns out that 10 or 20 years from now, plaintiffs’ fear... (proves) to have been well-founded.”

“Public school students have already endured two school years that were mired by disruption, leaving many students far behind,” he wrote. “Minimizing interruption by providing a safe environment for these students is... a legitimate and important governmental purpose. Although plaintiffs argue that masks and testing adequately can advance this objective, it is not irrational for defendants to conclude the vaccine mandate better enhances this purpose.”

The prospect of a critical shortage of teachers has schools officials spooked — and scrambling to make sure classrooms and services are maintained.

DOE Chancellor Meisha Porter on Saturday said she was confident the mandate would prevail, but warned “principals and their school communities should continue to prepare for the possibility that the vaccine mandate will go into effect later in the week.”

“Staff have who have not yet received a vaccine should continue to work towards compliance in anticipation of the mandate being reinstated as early as the end of the week,” she added.

The New York City Law Department has argued the mandate is both legal and “in the best interest of children and department employees,” calling it “firmly grounded in science and the expertise of public health officials from across the nation,” a spokesman said.

The Law Department had no immediate response to the temporary injunction.

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