New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said 96% of all city public school teachers have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, as a vaccine mandate for educators went into full effect Monday morning.
Speaking at a Monday news conference, he said 95% of all full-time DOE employees and 99% of all principals have had at least one dose of the vaccine.
There has been a rush of vaccinations since the mandate was announced in late August, de Blasio said. More than 43,000 doses of the vaccine were administered to school employees since then, he noted.
The NYC school system, the nation’s largest, has about 148,000 employees, including 48,000 teachers, the DOE reported. Employees who have not been vaccinated or granted an exemption will be moved to “leave without pay” status.
As of Monday, all employees in 1,600 schools are vaccinated and “that is unprecedented,” the mayor said. “Every adult in our schools is now vaccinated and that’s going to be the rule going forward.”
“What does 95% vaccinated mean? It means our employees and staff members as we’ve said are doing their part to keep the community safe,” schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter said Monday.
“With 100% of adults in buildings vaccinated, NYC schools are the safest places to be,” she added.
She also said it is “never too late” to get the vaccine, adding if educators get their first dose today “you are more than welcome to come back to work.”
Porter said the city is prepared, with thousands of vaccinated substitutes on hand if unvaccinated teachers are turned away.
Vaccine sites will be open at schools which plan to administer second doses beginning Monday, she said.
While de Blasio and Porter provided numbers for all school employees, the president of one of the city’s largest teachers’ unions said 97% of its members have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Michael Mulgrew of the United Federation of Teachers said if a teacher were to be vaccinated today, they can go to work tomorrow, adding it is “not too late.” He estimated an additional 1,000 people were vaccinated over the weekend who are working in schools Monday.
Approximately 3,000 UFT members applied for medical or religious accommodations, and close to 1,000 of those were approved, Mulgrew said.
“Most of them are medical accommodations; those are people who have been vaccinated, but have no immune system at this point,” he said.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said Monday “kids want to be back in school, in person. … The safety protocols are the way to be in and stay in,” she said.
She claimed getting vaccinated was the single most important thing in ensuring kids remain in school.
“We need to make sure whether it is Bill de Blasio in his final days, or whether it is the new mayor, we need to have a real partnership in schools, so that kids can thrive and that the educators can have the tools and conditions they need to help the recovery of kids right now,” she said.
US Education Secretary Dr. Miguel Cardona applauded NYC for its accomplishment in teacher vaccinations, saying “every effort that you take to make sure that the folks that come in contact with our children are vaccinated is well-received.”
Speaking virtually during the daily mayoral briefing, Cardona said, “I applaud everything that you are doing to promote a safe return to school, and that includes better ventilation systems, you know, masking to make sure that we are reducing the spread, but that also included taking advantage of what we have this year that we didn’t have last year. Vaccinations.”
A group of city school teachers asked the Supreme Court Thursday to block the school system’s vaccine mandate. Friday, US Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor rejected the teachers’ request to block the vaccine mandate.
De Blasio said Monday the city’s vaccine mandate has been looked at by court system “over and over again” and has been upheld, as courts have “consistently” sided with the city.