Religious vaccine exemption stays for NY health care workers

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FILE – In this Oct. 5, 2021, file photo, a healthcare worker receives a Pfizer COVID-19 booster shot at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. The number of Americans getting COVID-19 vaccines has steadily increased to a three-month high as seniors and people with medical conditions seek boosters, and government and employer mandates push more workers to take their first doses. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

UTICA, N.Y. (AP) — A federal judge ruled Tuesday that New York must continue to allow health care workers to seek exemptions from a statewide vaccine mandate on religious grounds as a lawsuit challenging the requirement proceeds.

Judge David Hurd in Utica had issued a temporary restraining order a month ago after 17 doctors, nurses, and other health professionals claimed in a lawsuit that their rights would be violated with a vaccine mandate that disallowed the exemptions.

Hurd’s preliminary injunction Tuesday means New York will continue to be barred from enforcing any requirement that employers deny religious exemptions.

Hurd wrote that the health care workers challenging suing the state were likely to succeed on the merits of their constitutional claim.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration began requiring workers at hospitals and nursing homes to be vaccinated on Sept. 27 and more recently expanded the requirement to include workers at assisted living homes, hospice care, treatment centers and home health aides.

An email was sent to the Hochul administration seeking comment.

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