With vaccine exemptions being reviewed, thousands of municipal workers could still lose their jobs

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Up to 4,800 city workers who have applied for religious and medical vaccine exemptions could soon be out of work if their applications are denied in the coming weeks.

According to city officials, human resources staff at individual agencies methodically review each of the applications to determine if they are legitimate. The possible cuts could leave city agencies – which have already licensed 1,430 workers for refusing to get vaccinated so far – shorthanded, according to union officials.

The Adams administration hopes people whose exception letters are rejected will decide to get vaccinated to keep their jobs.

In total, about 95% of the city’s workforce has received at least one injection of the vaccine, according to city officials. This is up from the 84% recorded since October, when the mandate was announced by former Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“Our goal has always been to vaccinate, not eliminate, and city workers stepped up and achieved their assigned goal,” Mayor Eric Adams said earlier this month.

Of 7,030 exemption requests processed from Oct. 29 to Feb. 9, 4,912 were denied and 2,118, or 30%, were approved, according to Mayor’s spokesman Jonah Allon. The Adams administration did not break down the data between religious and medical claims.

About 4,800 of the 13,044 total exemptions filed remain pending an initial response, according to city records. Some of those requests will likely be approved, but city officials say most of the employees whose requests were denied chose to get vaccinated.

“The city has processed more than half of the accommodation requests without seeing any delays, disruptions or loss of city services and we expect to process the remaining requests without any issues,” said mayor’s spokesman Jonah Allon. .

Staff members awaiting a response on their exemptions remain on payroll and working while other anti-vaxxers who have not filed for exemption have been placed on unpaid leave.

divine intervention

Several studies around the world have shown that the vaccine significantly reduces the likelihood of contracting COVID as well as the risk of hospitalization from serious conditions And the dead.

As such, major religious leaders around the world – from the Pope to eminent rabbis and imams – encouraged devotees to get vaccinated.

Meanwhile, in New York, some spiritual leaders, like Rabbi Avraham Soffer, see signing letters as a key part of religion.

Any rabbi who rejects such a request “isn’t Jewish,” the Midwood-based Soffer told THE CITY.

“If you claim that Torah laws don’t apply in this case, something is obviously wrong with you,” he said. “Obviously you don’t believe in the Torah.”

An ad placed by Brooklyn Rabbi Avraham Soffer.
Courtesy of Rabbi Avraham Soffer

In September, several prominent rabbis set up a YouTube clip urging community members to get vaccinated.

“We in the community need to realize that if 99% of doctors say get vaccinated, you get vaccinated. What are we, playing games? asked Rabbi Yaakov Bender, head of Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway.

As for Soffer’s letters, some including three to city cops were dismissed, he said.

“It’s totally unfair,” he argued. “These people have families to support.”

Soffer says he doesn’t charge people for exemption papers but has started a fundraising campaign to sponsor ads advertising his services. The ‘Stop All Hurt’ campaign has raised $7,608 from 58 donations, according to the Chesed Funda Jewish version of GoFundMe.

Soffer is not alone.

Some seeking a religious pass have argued that using aborted fetal cells in medical research for vaccines is a violation of their faith, according to letters obtained by THE CITY. Others argue that their Catholic beliefs state that “man should be in the hands of his own counsel.”

Government agencies have a great deal of leeway when it comes to enforcing a vaccine mandate, under case law.

“The odds of defeating the warrant are slim to nil – and slim is out of town,” Manhattan attorney Jerold Levine, who focuses on civil service and rights cases, told THE CITY in December. firearms.

People must prove that the warrant somehow targets their religion in order to be exempt from the requirement.

The high bar of evidence hasn’t stopped thousands from applying.

The NYPD led the way with 6,170 officers filing waiver requests, 1,850 at the FDNY, 550 at the Human Resources Administration and Department of Human Services, and 380 at the Department of Environmental Protection, according to city records.

Some federal agencies, like the Air Force, have denied all religious exemption requests as of Jan. 21, according to the latest available data. This military wing has “deprecated” 2,787 of these deposits and 2,443 are on hold, according to files posted online. The Air Force also approved 3,781 medical exemptions.

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