NEW YORK — Despite a nonexistent clear record of teacher vaccination rates in the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio declared the reopening of public schools in “full force.”
“We’re coming back in September full strength. I don’t have a doubt in my mind,” de Blasio said in a press interview. “I want to get middle schools open soon and then high school beyond,” he added.
However, for the president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), Michael Mulgrew, the city government should first ensure the vaccination of the entire population of public school teachers against COVID-19 before putting the return to in-person learning for five days a week on the table.
During a press briefing in January, the UFT announced its partnership with the NYU Langone Health and EmblemHealth hospitals to execute a vaccination program that speeds up the access of COVID-19 vaccine to teachers, in hopes of easing the concern of parents with sending their children back to schools.
“This is the beginning of getting to the end of this horrible crisis that this entire city and country and world are going through,” Mulgrew announced in a press interview. He believes that increased availability of the vaccine is the key to fully reopening schools and businesses.
In a following update, Mulgrew disclosed that as of January 11, a total of 9,000 in-school teachers who signed up for the UFT vaccination program have been matched to vaccination providers for inoculation appointments against COVID-19. He then expressed concern about the “scant supply of Covid-19 vaccine doses” in the city, potentially jeopardizing the joint efforts to return to reopen schools.
“I want to be fully open in September, and I can’t guarantee that right now,” Mulgrew expressed his irresolution in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
In a later interview, mayor de Blasio backed Mulgrew’s sentiment saying that despite his interest in fully resume in-person classes in the fall, he does not downplay his concern about the new variants of COVID-19 being detected in the city, which were discovered to be more contagious.
“We got to see what happens with this variant. We’ve got to get more people vaccinated. We’ve got to have more testing capacity. I’m certain we’ll do it over time in this school year, but a few challenges we got to overcome first,” de Blasio stated.
The City Hall, however, is yet to release a COVID-19 vaccination rate bulletin detailing the number of teachers that received the COVID-19 vaccine since the UFT vaccination program became available.
A City Hall spokesperson released a statement saying that a report could not be released yet as part of the city’s effort to harmonize data with the UTF and vaccination providers in the process of validating the vaccination rates not only for teachers but various workforce elements.
With this development, the UTF is forced to cancel appointments for a lack of vaccine supply, and no “vaccination rates for various workforce elements” have been released by the city three months since its last update about the validation of said data.