ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — A federal judge has ordered an extension on the temporary restraining order blocking the state of New York from forcing medical workers to be vaccinated.
Judge David Hurd in Utica canceled oral arguments on Monday and extended the temporary restraining order to October 12.
Hurd indicated that he would issue a decision on or before by October 12. All hospital staff and long-term care facility employees are required to get their first dose of the COVID vaccine by September 27.
However, this extension of the temporary restraining order does not state if health care workers still need to need to meet this deadline. Seventeen health professionals are suing the state because the mandate does not include the option of a religious exemption.
“Health care workers could still get medical exemptions, but not religious exemptions. The corrects of their argument are that it goes against not only the constitution but also the New York State Human Rights Law,” said Melanie Franco, attorney at Tully Rinckey in Albany.
The anonymous plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Christians who say they oppose the COVID vaccine on moral grounds. However, Catholic Church leaders say it is morally acceptable to take vaccines against COVID. And Franco says that, when applying for a religious exemption, it’s not just about your belief but how your religious practice is affected.
“It can’t just be some sort of philosophical moral objection there has to be some sincere religious belief. Plaintiffs can truly demonstrate that their religious beliefs are being violated and that they’re being prevented from freely practicing from their religion,” said Franco.
The state says this order does not suspend the vaccine mandate, but it temporarily stops the Department of Health from enforcing the mandate where individuals have claims for religious exemption. The state must submit its response to the lawsuit by Wednesday at 5 p.m.