NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- A judge panel has dissolved a temporary hold that was placed on New York City's COVID vaccine mandate for public school employees.
The three-judge panel from the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dissolved the temporary injunction Monday, clearing the way for the city to implement its vaccine mandate for public school employees.
Mayor Bill de Blasio says that public school staff must be vaccinated by Friday at 5 p.m.
A Department of Education spokesperson says the city now has the right to move forward with the school vaccine mandate.
"Vaccinations are our strongest tool in the fight against COVID-19 - this ruling is on the right side of the law and will protect our students and staff. The mandate will go into effect on Friday end of day so that by Monday, October 4, 100% of educators and staff in our buildings will be vaccinated."
Officials were set to battle it out in court over New York City's vaccine mandate for school employees after a federal judge granted a temporary injunction over the weekend.
All public school teachers and employees were supposed to be vaccinated with at least one shot by Monday, but the ruling meant the city couldn't enforce the rule until a three-judge panel decided whether such a city mandate was constitutional.
The panel offered no explanation for why it opted to dissolve the temporary injunction on Monday, and the decision appeared to negate the need for a hearing that had been scheduled for Wednesday.
The United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew issued a statement following the decision:
"The courts have cleared the way for the city to begin enforcing the city's vaccine mandate for school employees. The city's estimate is that 97% of the teachers have been vaccinated, but according to our recent survey of UFT chapter leaders, only about one-third believe that as of now their schools can open without disruption, given the potential shortage of unvaccinated personnel, including school aides and security personnel. The city has a lot of work before it to ensure that enough vaccinated staff will be available by the new deadline. We will be working with our members to ensure, as far as possible, that our schools can open safely as the vaccine mandate is enforced."
Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was confident that outcome would fall in the city's favor.
"We expect that as early as the end of this week, we will be going to the full vaccine mandate," he said. "But of course we will go through the full court process."
The mayor noted that there has been progress in getting more members of the Department of Education vaccinated, saying that on Friday and Saturday, 7,000 more employees got their first shot.
As of Monday, 87% all employees within the New York City Department of Education have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, including 90% of teachers and 97% of principals.
"For parents and kids, this should be a real sense of relief to see the numbers are already so high," de Blasio said. "And that says great things about our ability to have a safe school system and keep everything moving."
The mandate has prompted fears and warnings of a teacher shortage if not enough substitutes can be found once the mandate takes effect, with the unions representing teachers and principals urging de Blasio to push back the deadline.
"I'm not an anti-vaxxer, I'm anti-mandate, just like many of the teachers are," UFT attorney Louis Gelormino said. "The complaint that we ledge is that being forced to put this vaccination in your body is a violation of the constitution under the equal protection clause and under the due process clause."
Some 10,000 teachers remain unvaccinated, and the group New York Teachers for Choice believes those working in New York City public schools should not have to choose between getting vaccinated or losing their jobs.
"I believe we should have a choice in what we decide to put in our bodies," said Taisha Richards, an unvaccinated school safety agent in the Bronx.
She said she knows that by the end of the week, she maybe out of work.
"I believe so much in our freedoms," she said. "I go to like where the Bible talks about Abraham and his son and sacrificing his son, willing to give up his own blood, that's how much I'm willing to give up."
But that mindset is not shared by the majority of DOE employees.
"We have been in court with this very same set of information, very same argument, at both the state and federal level," de Blasio said. "We've won previously. We expect to win again, and quickly, this week."
At PS 54 on Staten Island, there is a united front with both vaccinated and unvaccinated employees believing the city does have a plan B.
"We do not need COVID 19 certificates replacing certified teachers, paraprofessionals, school safety agents, administrators," teacher Gina Rivero said. "That's who we want leading our schools. That's who these children deserve."
The topic continues to be divisive.
"Good, if you don't want to get vaccinated, well then live in a cave," parent Oscar Riquelme said. "But we live in society, and we should be responsible."
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