New York teachers’ vaccination mandate prompts thousands of last-minute shots
A few thousand medically vulnerable children have the opportunity to learn at home or receive in-person education at home.
Three weeks after the start of the school year, it’s too early to tell if the city can keep students safe like it did last year, when far fewer children came to school. There are approximately 600,000 more children in classrooms this year than last year.
As of September 13, 1,210 of the city’s 65,000 classrooms have temporarily closed due to virus cases and potential exposures. More than 2,358 cases have been detected among the city’s one million students and 943 among tens of thousands of staff. So far, only one school has closed entirely due to an outbreak. It has since reopened.
Last week, the mayor increased testing in schools and relaxed quarantine rules, a change meant to ease the disruption caused by frequent classroom closures during the first week of class. The mayor’s original plan to test only 10 percent of consenting unvaccinated people in schools every two weeks had been criticized by public health experts, and testing of unvaccinated only students is now weekly.
The vaccination mandate came into effect at a crucial time for the city and its schools. The overall number of cases of the virus in New York City has been on the decline for several weeks, and elementary school children are likely to become eligible for vaccination by Thanksgiving.
But further disruption is almost inevitable. There are still many unvaccinated middle and high school students, even though children 12 and older have been eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine since the spring. There will almost certainly be a significant number of younger children who will not be immunized immediately even after becoming eligible.
And because breakthrough cases among vaccinated students will also remain a concern, temporary classroom closures and even full building closures will continue.
Mr de Blasio said he was not considering instituting a vaccination mandate for children. California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Friday that students should be vaccinated to go to school as early as next fall. Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school district, will institute a mandate to vaccinate students early next year.