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95% of NYC schools staff have received COVID vaccine as mandate kicks in

New York City’s vaccine mandate for more than 150,000 education employees took effect Monday morning, requiring those without at least one dose to be put on unpaid leave.
The threat of losing their salaries seemed to be a big incentive for staff members to get vaccinated. By Monday, 95% of education department employees had received at least one dose, including 96% of teachers and 99% of principals, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday. About 43,000 education department employees received a vaccine dose after the mandate was announced on Aug. 23.
That left roughly 7,400 unvaccinated employees, including about 3,100 teachers. Unvaccinated educators will continue to receive health insurance and will be allowed to return to their schools if they receive a first vaccine dose. About 1,000 educators have received medical or religious accommodations, according to a teachers union spokesperson.
Vaccination rates have been significantly lower for school safety agents: 84% have received at least one dose, de Blasio said.
“Every adult in our schools is now vaccinated and that’s going to be the rule going forward,” de Blasio said. “That’s the way to keep kids safe and the whole school community safe.”
The nation’s largest school system is among the first wave of districts to issue such a mandate. Though the implementation was delayed by a week due to multiple legal challenges from a group of educators and unions representing school staff, challenges that have so far been unsuccessful.
In the days before the mandate took effect, school leaders and union officials raised concerns that even a relatively small percentage of staff who refuse the vaccine could cause significant disruptions. Although many schools have vaccination rates that approach 100%, union leaders warned that others would likely face staff shortages, forcing principals to scramble to cover classrooms by tapping substitutes, central office staff, or other school employees such as counselors who don’t typically work in classrooms.
City officials have insisted that the pool of vaccinated substitute teachers exceeds the numbers of unvaccinated staff. But one sign that the education department may be concerned about potential shortages: An email sent to substitute teachers over the weekend said they could earn a $50 a day bonus for picking up open jobs, in addition to the $199.27 daily rate they typically earn.
The city’s teachers union also alerted its members that it negotiated procedures for filling roles vacated by unvaccinated staff, including “emergency coverage” to fill in for classroom teachers by counselors, social workers, psychologists. The union said that funneling students whose classroom teacher went on unpaid leave into other classrooms should be used only as a last resort.
City officials are hoping the mandate will help reduce the risk of virus transmission and the disruptions that come with it, as the more contagious delta variant continues to circulate at the same time that many classrooms are back to full capacity given there is no longer an option to learn virtually and social distancing rules have been relaxed.
Since district schools reopened on Sept. 13, more than 2,300 of roughly 1 million students have tested positive and so have 943 staffers out of tens of thousands of employees. Those infections have led to roughly 2,500 full or partial classroom closures out of roughly 65,000 classrooms.
This is a breaking story. Please check back for updates.

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