A federal judge's ruling on Tuesday says employers in New York's healthcare sector must allow religious exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Presiding Judge Hurd said the state government of New York doesn't have the authority to ban religious exemptions.
He issued an injunction that bars the Department of Health from reprimanding employers for granting religious exemptions to staff.
In addition: "The Department of Health is barred from taking any action, disciplinary or otherwise, against the licensure, certification, residency, admitting privileges or other professional status or qualification of any of the plaintiffs on account of their seeking or having obtained a religious exemption from mandatory COVID-19 vaccination."
The New York Times describes a contrast between former Governor Andrew Cuomo and the current governor; Cuomo allowed religious exemptions but Kathy Hochul took them away, which in itself triggered the lawsuit.
In light of today's decision, Hochul said the state would be appealing the ruling:
"My responsibility as governor is to protect the people of this state, and requiring health care workers to get vaccinated accomplishes that. I stand behind this mandate, and I will fight this decision in court to keep New Yorkers safe."
However, Hurd is confident in the case brought forward by the plaintiffs, saying they've proven the executive order "conflicts with longstanding federal protections for religious beliefs and that they and others will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of injunctive relief."
It was back in late September that Hochul threatened to replace unvaccinated healthcare workers with foreign labor. At the beginning of October, one of New York's largest healthcare providers fired hundreds of unvaccinated workers.
In the education sector, vaccine mandates for New York teachers ignited a wave of protests earlier this month.
The issue of statewide vaccine mandates has recently come back to the public’s attention after Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Monday banned COVID-19 jab mandates entirely, statewide.
At Tuesday’s White House press conference, Jen Psaki accused states like Texas and Florida of "putting politics ahead of public health."