ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A Syracuse judge recently struck down the COVID vaccine mandate for healthcare workers.

The law is no longer in effect, immediately. Employees were previously required to have at least one round of the COVID vaccine.

We’ve reported on lawsuits against the mandate before, on the basis of constitutional rights and religious freedom. Ultimately, the courts refused to block the mandate back in 2021.

Fast forward to now: this lawsuit is different because it concerns the state’s powers — what they can mandate at this point in the pandemic.

The lawsuit, argues the New York State Department of Health doesn’t have authority to adopt the mandate as permanent.

In court paperwork, the plaintiffs argue the adoption of a permanent mandate was an overstep of powers, after the former governor’s emergency powers were rescinded in 2021.

For those against a mandate, the recent news is the first victory in the process to end it, said employment attorney Steve Modica.

Modica said a lot has changed since the pandemic hit in 2020. He believes a combination of COVID fatigue, less severity in cases, and widespread staffing shortages could be key factors moving forward.

“There is difficulty in filling so many positions, that the labor market shortage, I think, is making people rethink this a little bit too,” said Modica. “As much as it would be ideal from the perspective of some to have everybody be fully vaccinated and boosted, if we don’t have enough people to provide the care that we need, that’s a problem.”

Modica said the state has the right to ask the appellate court for interim relief. That means they provide a case for why they believe the mandate should stay while this moves through the court system.

A spokesperson for the NYS DOH released the following statement:

“The requirement that health care workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 protects vulnerable New Yorkers and the people who care for them, and it is a critical public health tool. The State Health Department strongly disagrees with the judge’s decision and is exploring all options.”

We’ve reached out to our hospital systems and are awaiting comment. 

Stephen Hanse with the New York State Health Facilities Association said he does not believe the court ruling will dramatically change the current staffing crisis. But, adds that it has a chance of bringing back the small percentage of employees who quit.