New York state officials have formally filed an appeal to a ruling earlier this week by a federal judge in Utica that upheld religious exemptions for health care workers amid the state's requirement that they be vaccinated for COVID-19.

According to a short filing, the appeal officially was made Tuesday by Gov. Kathy Hochul, outgoing Health Commissioner Howard Zucker and Attorney General Letitia James to the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

U.S. District Court Judge David Hurd earlier this week upheld religious exemptions for health care workers, barring the state or employers from placing those workers who have filed for an exemption from being furloughed or fired.

Hochul has pointed to rising vaccination rates among health care workers in New York in the weeks leading up to the requirement taking effect. On Tuesday, Hochul announced the mandate has led to about 3% of health care workers in the state leaving their jobs.

"It's not something we've wanted to do; it's something this pandemic has forced us to do," Hochul said on Wednesday.

Overall, 75.1% of New York adults 18 and older have completed the vaccine cycle.