Judge temporarily blocks NY from requiring medical workers to be vaccinated
A federal judge temporarily blocked the state of New York on Tuesday from requiring medical workers to be vaccinated after a group of health care workers sued, saying their constitutional rights were violated because the state's mandate disallowed religious exemptions.
Judge David Hurd in Utica issued the order after 17 health professionals, including doctors and nurses, claimed in a lawsuit Monday that their rights were violated with a vaccine mandate that disallowed the exemptions for “sincere religious beliefs that compel the refusal of such vaccination.”
The health care workers who filed the lawsuit did so anonymously, saying if people knew who they are, they could be ostracized, threatened with harm or fired immediately.
Two Syosset Hospital nurses also filed a lawsuit based on religious freedom, but a federal judge refused to block the state’s vaccine mandate in that case.
Hundreds of health care workers previously took to the streets on Long Island in protest of the mandatory vaccine requirement. They say they should be the ones to decide whether to get vaccinated.
Paula Gagliardi, a phlebotomist and EKG technician from Suffolk County, says before the judge’s ruling, she was thinking of getting a new job.
“The court today, you know, giving us that hope,” Gagliardi says. “…I cried when I heard that.”
She says she wants her children feel as though she is standing up for their religious freedoms and First Amendment rights.
The Medical Society of the State of New York says it’s concerned that the ruling will “result in a flurry of attempts to circumvent the well-reasoned vaccination requirement.”
The judge gave New York state until Sept. 22 to respond to the lawsuit in federal court in Utica.
The state issued the order Aug. 28, requiring at least a first shot for health care workers at hospitals and nursing homes by Sept. 27.
Hazel Crampton-Hays, press secretary to Gov. Kathy Hochul, released a statement to News 12, saying: “Gov. Hochul is doing everything in her power to protect New Yorkers and combat the delta variant by increasing the vaccine rates across the state. Requiring vaccination of health care workers is critical to this battle. This order does not suspend the vaccine mandate, but it temporarily bars the Department of Health from enforcing the mandate where individuals have claims for religious exemption. We are considering all of our legal options to keep our communities safe.”
Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.