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New York City is lifting its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for municipal employees

A man walks out of a vaccination bus at a mobile vaccine clinic in Midtown Manhattan, Dec. 6, 2021. New York City is ending its COVID-19 vaccination mandate for municipal employees, Mayor Eric Adams announced Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. The vaccine mandate, which led to the firing of hundreds of city workers who declined to get the shots, will end on Friday, Adams said in a news release.
Mary Altaffer
/
AP
A man walks out of a vaccination bus at a mobile vaccine clinic in Midtown Manhattan, Dec. 6, 2021. New York City is ending its COVID-19 vaccination mandate for municipal employees, Mayor Eric Adams announced Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. The vaccine mandate, which led to the firing of hundreds of city workers who declined to get the shots, will end on Friday, Adams said in a news release.

New York City will no longer require municipal employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, about a year and a half after the policy was implemented.

In a statement, Mayor Eric Adams said Monday "this is the right moment for the decision" because currently, more than 96% of city employees are vaccinated, and 80% of all New Yorkers have received at least two doses of the vaccine.

The change will take effect Friday, following the next Board of Health meeting the day prior, and also applies to city Department of Education employees. Those visiting Department of Education schools will no longer have to provide proof of at least one vaccine dose.

The vaccine mandate was established in July 2021, and gave city employees until the end of September of that year to get vaccinated, or have to wear a mask indoors and take weekly COVID-19 tests.

About 1,780 employees were fired for not submitting proof of vaccination. Those employees will not be reinstated, but can reapply to their old departments within the city, according to the announcement.

Last Oct. 24, a New York state judge ruled that the city's vaccine mandate for public employees was arbitrary and capricious, and therefore in violation of the state constitution. He ordered the city to reinstate city employees who had been fired over the mandate with back pay, but the city filed an appeal.

But also on that day, Adams lifted the mandate for private sector employees. Last March, the city ended its vaccine mandate for athletes and theater performers.

"It's clear these mandates saved lives and were absolutely necessary to meet the moment. We're grateful that we can now, as we leave the emergency phase of the pandemic, modify more of the rules that have gotten us to this point," said Dr. Ashwin Vasan, New York City's Department of Health and mental hygiene commissioner.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ayana Archie