NY teachers union urges free testing but against vaccine mandate

State News

Emma Kash, a teacher at Yung Wing School P.S. 124 in New York City, wears a mask and teaches remotely from her classroom on September 24, 2020. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – With COVID-19 cases on the rise again and school about a month away, Gov. Cuomo on Monday urged school districts to implement vaccine requirements or weekly testing for teachers in high-risk areas.

New York State United Teachers, a large statewide union, released a statement shortly after that encouraged districts to make free testing available for teachers but said it is against a vaccine mandate.

“We have advocated since the beginning of the year that any educator who wants a vaccine should have easy access to one,” NYSUT said in a statement. “We would support local efforts to encourage more vaccinations, such as through programs that require that those who are not vaccinated get tested on a regular basis. But it’s critical that districts come up with plans to make testing available on-site and at no cost. What we have not supported is a vaccine mandate.”

What Cuomo urged for schools Monday is similar to what New York announced last week for state employees, who will need to be vaccinated or test regularly starting on Labor Day. The state employee mandate does not include teachers, who are employed by local school districts.

“I believe school districts should say today, teachers must get vaccinated or tested weekly if you are in a CDC high-risk area — the red or the yellow zones,” Cuomo said Monday. “I think they should say that to teachers today.”

Cuomo added that school districts should not delay in setting policies because teachers will need time to get their shots if they are required.

“I think school districts should say ‘vaccinate or test,’” Cuomo said. “Schools open in one month and if you don’t set a policy today, you’re going to have chaos in one month.”

Cuomo added: “Mask policy will be important, but I don’t believe a mask policy will be enough — I think we’re going to have to talk about a vaccination policy. What does that mean? Well, we’ve taken the first steps; the federal government has done it, the state government has done it, and some local governments have done it, which is you either have to get the vaccine or a weekly test. That’s the first step, but it’s only the first step.”

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