A federal judge on Thursday ruled that New York State health officials are required to include religious exemption under its vaccine mandate to allow employers to give some of their workers the option not to get the coronavirus vaccine.
The ruling came as a lawsuit challenging the state's vaccine mandate was making its way through the courts. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul's efforts to mandate vaccination on healthcare workers have been temporarily blocked by the judge's recent order.
New York's Vaccine Mandate Blocked
The judge's rule gives many unvaccinated doctors, nurses, and support workers who remain to be at risk of the virus the opportunity to apply for religious exemption. If not for the ruling, these individuals would be forced to stop working on Tuesday. Despite the judge's rule, healthcare workers experience the full brunt of the vaccine mandate.
However, a group of workers who were suing the state over the mandate expressed their support of the judge's ruling. The group's attorney, Christopher Ferrara, also noted that with the recent decision, the court was recognizing that the heroes fighting against the coronavirus pandemic on the front lines could not be immediately treated as "disease-carrying villains" and forced to bow to state health bureaucracy, the New York Times reported.
The judge responsible for the ruling, U.S. District Judge David Hurn, said that the question of the issue was whether or not the vaccine mandate conflicted with plaintiffs' and other individuals' rights. He said that the answer to that question was a clear yes.
Hurd also left an opportunity for an appeal to be filed, arguing that it was important to address the controversial issues that were in dispute. The New York State Department of Health's vaccine mandate was issued on Aug. 26 and gave healthcare workers until Sept. 27 to get the coronavirus vaccine or risk being terminated from their jobs.
The judge argued that some of the workers affected by the vaccine mandate were previously infected by the disease, recovered, and returned to work to care for patients. Hurd argued that the protective measures they implemented then were suddenly inadequate now, Fox News reported.
Businesses Fined for Noncompliance
The situation comes as 14 businesses in New York were fined by authorities for allegedly violating the vaccine mandate. City-data showed that 6,760 businesses were warned that they failed to comply with the city's new requirements. Fourteen of these were given $1,000 fines for noncompliance.
Authorities inspected more than 27,500 business establishments since the vaccine mandate was put into place on Sept. 13. However, the city declined to name the businesses that were found to be violating the vaccine mandate.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in August that businesses in the area, including restaurants, bars, museums, and gyms, were required to show proof of coronavirus vaccination from patrons to be allowed to operate indoors. Similar pieces of legislation were implemented in various American cities, including Seattle and Los Angeles. The decisions were made to boost the vaccination rates in the regions and slow the spread of the coronavirus disease, the New York Eater reported.