By Kristina Sgueglia and Dakin Andone, CNN
A federal appeals court has issued a temporary injunction against a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for New York City educators set to go into effect early next week, temporarily blocking enforcement while the case is sent to a three-judge circuit court panel for review.
The judge’s ruling Friday means the mandate — which required all New York City Department of Education employees to provide proof of at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by Monday — may not go into effect at its planned deadline, unless the case is reviewed before then.
The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has issued a notice putting the motion on the calendar for Wednesday, according to a spokesperson for the New York City Law Department.
New York City Department of Education officials do not expect a ruling before Wednesday, press secretary Danielle Filson said. But the department remains confident the mandate will be upheld “once all the facts have been presented, because that is the level of protection our students and staff deserve.”
CNN had reported that thousands of teachers might not be in their classrooms next Tuesday, the morning the mandate goes into effect. Unions representing teachers, principals and supervisors had said the mandate’s introduction has been so poorly handled that many school employees would be suspended.
Currently, more than 82% of Department of Education employees are vaccinated, Filson said, “and we continue to urge all employees to get their shot by September 27.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the mandate in August, after the US Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to the Covid-19 vaccine by Pfizer/BioNTech, making educator vaccination a key pillar of the Covid-19 mitigation strategy by the nation’s largest school district. The mandate did not provide an option for employees to be regularly tested in lieu of inoculation.
CNN has reached out to de Blasio’s office for comment.
The request for an injunction by the plaintiffs in the case was denied Thursday by US District Court Judge Brian Cogan. According to his order, the plaintiffs had, in part, argued the mandate was a violation of their constitutional rights. But Cogan wrote the mandate was a “rational policy decision” that would help protect children during the pandemic.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. On Friday, the temporary injunction was granted pending review of the motion by the three-judge panel “on an expedited basis.”
In a response filed Saturday with the circuit court, the Department of Education said the injunction “threatens the DOE’s safe resumption of full school operations for the City’s nearly one million students — hundreds of thousands of whom are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.”
The response, shared with CNN by the city’s Law Department, goes on to say that the injunction “also upsets the reliance interests of parents and caregivers across the City — who need clear and sound safety protocols when they send their children to public schools in the City day after day.”
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