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Do No Harm

October 3, 2021 pm31 11:16 pm

Vaccine mandates are legal. That was well-established before Sonia Sotomayor said so. We have them for measles and mumps and maybe 10 other shots. There is nothing illegal about New York City’s vaccine mandate for school workers.

But there is something unwise about how New York City’s vaccine mandate for school workers. And there is something unfair about New York City’s vaccine mandate for school workers.

Start with how this works. Anyone who was not vaccinated Friday is being put on unpaid leave. They can stay there for a year. They continue to have health benefits. They cannot enter their buildings. As soon as someone gets vaccinated, at least as of today, they can come back.

Numbers. About 5500 teachers remain unvaccinated (I’m not sure how many teachers we have today. 70,000? 75,000? So that’s 7% or 8%). About 10,000 other school workers remain unvaccinated. I’m assuming most are paraprofessionals. There’s about 1000 school safety agents – I don’t know if that is part of the 10k, or in addition.

Who? Some Black and Latinx educators. There is some distrust of the system, born of years of the system treating Black and Latinx people poorly. And there is some religious fatalism. But I think these numbers have fallen significantly.

Who else? White Trump-y anti-vaxxers. There’s a lot of them, and they are motivated to behave poorly. They are also concentrated in relatively few parts of the city, especially parts of eastern Queens and much of Staten Island. And – and this matters – our school staffs are fairly segregated by school – so they are concentrated not only in specific neighborhoods, but even in specific schools.

Are there enough substitutes to replace them? Absolutely.

Will there be enough substitutes, for the right positions, in the right schools, who show up? Absolutely not.

Am I making that up? Nope. That’s what principals and their union are saying.

And that’s a problem. A badly short-staffed school cannot run correctly. There will be crowding. There will be poorly-planned reorganization. There will be some confusion. The teachers who show up will be saddled with extra work in an already stressful situation. Students will be left at higher risk for exposure.

And there is no quick solution in sight. Because the problem schools will be concentrated in relatively few places, and because the number might seem small – what, 5% of the schools? – 10 seems too high – but in NYC 5% of the schools is almost 100 schools! – the immediate staffing issues will drag on. The losers? Our vaccinated colleagues in those places, and, even more, the students.

The vaccine mandate is perfectly legal. But it will lead to our (vaccinated) colleagues in those places, and our students, being badly burdened and placed at risk. This is unwise.

When a medical treatment is available – but it causes harm to another part of the body, we think twice, and if the damage outweighs the good sometimes we might pass on that treatment. Likewise, a wiser mayor would have passed on the mandate, in this way, at this time. But de Blasio is not that wiser mayor.

Am I expressing sympathy for the Trump-y anti-vaxxers? No. No sympathy. I think they are idiots. I think they are actively putting themselves and others at risk. But if punishing them puts some of our schools/students/teachers at risk, I say no.

If not a mandate? Make them test, on their time, twice a week. Make them ineligible for per session. Put up hoops and obstacles. Knock yourself out. See how none of those things would harm students or our colleagues?

And de Blasio? Acting for public safety? But ignoring the cops? Nope. He’s a bully. And a coward. They go together. He’s terrified of the police, so he’s beating on teachers. That’s unfair.

You want a mandate today? I’m pretty sure I don’t. But if you want it, ask de Blasio to make it a blanket policy. Or better, Hochul. Or even better, Biden. Shouldn’t he be the one? No squawking about states’ rights, please.

For tomorrow, at least 90% of our schools should be okay. Let’s hope it is closer to 100%. And for those that are not okay, let’s find ways to step in to protect our members and our students. And let’s continue to remind de Blasio that these are HIS employees and New York City’s children and that he has an obligation, which he is violating, to keep both groups safe.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. David Vota permalink
    October 4, 2021 am31 6:41 am 6:41 am

    I agree from top to bottom.
    If I cannot be in school unvaccinated, WHICH I AM, do I or WHY do I, still have to fill out the questionnaire every morning before walking in? So they can treat like we are preschoolers? It could also be that we do not have to anymore and I just don’t know that at this time.

  2. Bill W. permalink
    October 4, 2021 am31 7:54 am 7:54 am

    So let me get this straight: According to you, black and Latinix members are not getting vaccinated because of, “some distrust of the system”. Yet, you also say that white, Trumpy, anti-vaxxers are not getting vaccinated because, ” a lot of them are motivated to behave poorly”. Hmmm, so does that means that black and Latinix people are not behaving poorly or that that white Trumpy people don’t trust the system? Oh yeah, there are plenty of black, and especially Latinix people who voted for Trump. This kind of blog post is exactly why there is so much division between NYC teachers.

    • October 4, 2021 am31 10:21 am 10:21 am

      There has been no uptick in vaccination, no surprise, from the ideologically driven Trumpies.

      So you found a pro-vaccine, anti-mandate blog, and decided to pick a fight. No wonder there are divisions between NYC teachers.

  3. October 6, 2021 am31 9:02 am 9:02 am

    One point I would make re teachers and police — the difference being a classroom full of unvaxed kids in close quarters. There is a risk – and testing twice a week is not enough.

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