Judge denies request to block NYC’s COVID vaccine mandate for teachers, DOE staff

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NEW YORK — New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for teachers and staff cleared another legal hurdle on Tuesday after a judge declined to grant a temporary injunction while the requirement is challenged in court — again.

The lawsuit was filed by a group of teachers and Department of Education staff members who are fighting for religious exemptions from the city’s vaccine mandate. This same group lost their bid for a temporary injunction last week, but through a federal appeal they were in court once again.

Dozens of people rallied on the steps of the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse in Manhattan ahead of the hearing.

Michael Kane, a special education teacher and the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, told PIX11 News before the hearing that their lawsuit could still be successful even if they’re not granted the temporary injunction.

“There is still the possibility our case will be successful in time, however, there is no telling what time frame such potential success might come within,” he said.

The lawsuit is one of several that have attempted to halt the city’s COVID vaccine mandate for DOE staff since it was announced in August. The mandate went into effect on Oct. 1 and enforcement began on Oct. 4.

DOE employees who could not prove they had received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine and who did not receive a religious or medical exemption from the city were suspended without pay.

As of Tuesday, 95% of the DOE’s 148,000 full-time staff members have complied with the vaccine mandate, according to a department spokesperson. 

Roughly 1,000 exemptions were granted, 300 of which were short-term and will end in late October, the spokesperson said. The short-term exemptions were granted due to a temporary illness, such as COVID, that would not allow the staff member to get vaccinated by the deadline.

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