New York City Sets Vaccine Mandate for Religious and Private School Workers

New York City will require employees at yeshivas, Catholic schools and other private schools to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, as part of the city’s latest push to expand vaccine mandates.

The new directive, which was announced on Thursday, is expected to affect roughly 930 schools and 56,000 employees, city officials said. They will have to show proof they received the first dose of a vaccine by Dec. 20.

“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,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.

Teachers and other employees at public schools were already required to get vaccinated, and more than 95 percent of the Department of Education’s employees have done so. Students are not required to be vaccinated, and the mayor has resisted setting a mandate for students, as some other American cities have.

As New York City faces growing concerns over the Omicron variant, Mr. de Blasio has encouraged New Yorkers to wear masks indoors, and has put in place a vaccine mandate for child care workers.

His order requiring vaccines for all city employees, including police officers and firefighters, faced resistance from some unions, but most workers eventually got vaccinated. Mr. de Blasio also required proof of vaccination for indoor dining, entertainment and gyms.

The new rules could face opposition from those employed at yeshivas, a group of ultra-Orthodox Jewish private schools, because of resistance to the vaccine.

Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, some of which have been ravaged by the coronavirus, have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the city. Misinformation campaigns led to a resistance to restrictions and safety guidelines at the height of the pandemic that at times caused virus cases to surge.

While about 77 percent of New Yorkers have received one dose of the vaccine, the rate is only 51 percent in Borough Park in Brooklyn, which has a large Orthodox community. In South Williamsburg, where several leading Hasidic sects are centered, the rate is about 59 percent.

Some ultra-Orthodox women have said they are hesitant to get vaccinated because they have concerns about fertility and pregnancy. There is no evidence that coronavirus vaccines cause fertility problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat with less than a month left in office, has longstanding political ties to the ultra-Orthodox community and has faced criticism over his handling of issues including oversight of yeshivas and a circumcision ritual, metzitzah b’peh, that led to multiple babies becoming infected with herpes.

Mr. de Blasio has relied on leaders in the ultra-Orthodox community as he moved through the political ranks, rising from the City Council to become public advocate and then mayor. He also relied on Orthodox donors during his unsuccessful presidential campaign.

Mr. de Blasio announced the vaccine mandate for public schoolteachers in August, but he did not set a similar mandate for private schools. Some private schools have set their own mandates for teachers and students.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said in a television interview in August that while staff and teachers at Catholic schools were not required to get the vaccine, he was “highly encouraging it.” He said that employees who were not vaccinated had to submit to weekly testing.

“We can’t jeopardize the health of the kids,” he said.

A vaccine deadline for correction officers — which Mr. de Blasio had pushed back by a month because of the ongoing staffing crisis at the Rikers Island jail complex — arrived this week, and about 82 percent of uniformed staff at the Correction Department were vaccinated as of Thursday, city officials said.

Still, hundreds of officers were being put on unpaid leave, and many who have been vaccinated were working 12-hour shifts at jails.

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