Gov. Kathy Hochul is open to letting school personnel and faculty take time off to get vaccinated as she negotiates a COVID-19 shot mandate for teachers and faculty in New York.
Hochul is in discussions with school leaders about increasing the number of education workers who are vaccinated as schools across the state are set to reopen for in-person learning in the coming days.
"If more time off is needed for people to do this, makes sense to me, they should take the time off," Hochul said in Buffalo on Tuesday. "These are all subject to immediate negotiations and we're having them right now."
Hochul early on spoke via video conference with the leaders of school districts across the state, including teachers, parents and advocacy groups soon after she became governor. Hochul has had to take a more nuanced approach to aspects of the pandemic given the reduced powers her office has to respond to the ongoing public health crisis.
Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in June allowed emergency powers to lapse as pandemic restrictions ended. But a surge in COVID cases this summer driven in large by the highly contagious delta variant has led to renewed concerns about a return to public gathering spaces.
The state Department of Health has already mandated universal indoor masking for schools, regardless of vaccination status.
Hochul last week announced she is supportive of teachers and other school workers being required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or face weekly testing requirements. The logistics of such a move, however, are complex. New York has hundreds of local bargaining units representing teachers on the local level.
The New York State United Teachers, an umbrella labor group, has been supportive of masking and increased testing for schools, but earlier this month said it remained opposed to requiring teachers to be vaccinated.