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Sotomayor declines to block vaccine mandate for New York City public school employees

Mayor Bill De Blasio said on Friday that 93 percent of teachers and 98 percent of principals have already had at least one dose.
Image: Sonia Sotomayor
Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor gestures while speaking at George Washington University, in Washington, D.C., on March 1, 2019.Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP file

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor late Friday refused to block an order requiring New York teachers to have at least one Covid vaccine dose before returning to the classroom Monday.

Without comment, Sotomayor denied an emergency application filed by the teachers Thursday. She acted on her own, without referring the case to the full court or seeking a reply from New York.

The teachers said thousands of public school employees would be forced out of work by the vaccine mandate, violating their fundamental right to pursue an occupation.

They also said order was unfair because it did not apply to other city employees, including firefighters and police officers, who routinely deal with the public. Teachers, by contrast, "maintain close indoor contact with children, who are dramatically less susceptible to illness from Covid," they said in their written pleadings filed with the Supreme Court.

New York Mayor Bill De Blasio said in an interview Friday on MSNBC that 90 percent of education department employees have already received at least one vaccine dose, including 93 percent of teachers and 98 percent of principals.

"The bottom line is, this mandate has worked," De Blasio said. "I would urge every mayor in America to do it now, get those vaccine mandates in place ahead of the cold weather when things are going to get tougher. Do it now or you will regret it later."

In a statement, attorney Lou Gelormino, who represents the teachers, expressed disappointment.

“The voices of our teachers deserved to be heard. ... These unconstitutional edicts will continue throughout the nation until our Courts decide to hear our argument that the Government has gone too far. Our children are the ones who will suffer the most."

The order, announced in August, required teachers, principals and support staff including custodians and cafeteria workers, to have least a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccination by Sept. 27.