NYC announces COVID vaccine mandate for religious, non-public school employees

Coronavirus update for NYC
NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City on Thursday announced a new COVID-19 vaccine mandate that will require all nonpublic school employees to get their first shot by December 20.

It affects roughly 56,000 employees of 938 yeshivas, Catholic schools and other private schools.

"Vaccinations are the key to our recovery, and our public schools are among the safest places to be in the city," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "Childcare centers will now be just as safe, and it's time to use the tools we have at our disposal to climb the ladder even further. We're doing everything in our power to protect our students and school staff, and a mandate for nonpublic school employees will help keep our school communities and youngest New Yorkers safe."

Officials say the mandate is in alignment with recommendations from the CDC, which has recommended that school teachers and staff be vaccinated as soon as possible.

The city will work collaboratively with school leaders in the weeks leading up to the mandate going into effect, ensuring vaccinations are easily accessible and school operations can continue to run smoothly.

"The health and safety of our children is paramount and we are extending our vaccine mandate to ensure all schools are protected from COVID-19," Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said. "All teachers and school staff should get vaccinated as soon as possible. The COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and save lives."

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The city will offer vaccines to any schools that request it, and vaccinations will be offered to interested eligible students as well as staff at the school.

The Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Brooklyn, which includes Brooklyn and Queens, signed onto a letter sent to the mayor and the health commissioner asking that such a mandate be reconsidered.

An official said there is an 88% vaccination rate among staff and teachers in Catholic schools and academies in Brooklyn and Queens, and that the Diocese respects the nature of what it calls a personal decision but has been encouraging vaccination all along.

Members of the Committee of NYC Religious and Independent School Officials also sent a letter to the city, voicing their opposition to the mandate.

Its membership consists of the leadership of the schools affiliated with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York and the Brooklyn Diocese, the Islamic schools, the Lutheran schools, the Greek Orthodox schools, the Adventist schools, the Historically Black Independent schools and the Jewish schools.

"While we support and generally encourage COVID vaccination in our schools, and while in fact the large majority of our schools' employees are so vaccinated, most of our schools do not insist upon such vaccination as a condition of employment," part of the letter read. "Many of our schools view COVID vaccination as a matter most appropriately left to individual choice, not governmental fiat. This is an area where government should be using its bully pulpit to persuade, not its regulatory arm to coerce."

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