The upstate New York school districts that didn’t open last week are likely opening this week, amid an uptick in the delta variant of the coronavirus.

According to Gov. Kathy Hochul administration’s latest COVID-19 update, the Capital Region, Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley and Western New York all have 7-day average positivity rates above 4%. 

On Monday, the North Country’s 7-day average positivity rate was 5.45%.

Because of the growing virus caseload, Hochul announced that her administration is looking into mandating COVID-19 vaccines or weekly testing for all school staff, in addition to the administration’s mandatory mask mandate. 

Andy Pallotta, the president of New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), told Capital Tonight that the union supports mandatory testing, but not mandatory vaccinations.

“I’ve gotten about 1,400 emails over the last week from teachers, who are not shy people,” Pallotta said. “And they told me why they didn’t want the vaccine.”

The reasons teachers gave against a possible vaccine mandate ranged from breastfeeding to religious beliefs.

If the Hochul administration determines a vaccine mandate for teachers is warranted, NYSUT will bring the issue back to districts via collective bargaining.

“We know that an employer has the ability to do this. What we also know from what we’ve seen in New York City is that the union has rights also. The members have rights. And the bargaining that would have to take place because of the impact on its members is a must,” Pallotta told Capital Tonight.