(Reuters) - Judges, employees and contractors working in the federal courthouses in the Southern District of New York will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 under a new policy court officials rolled out on Monday.
The new policy makes the court one of the biggest in the federal judiciary to adopt a vaccine mandate. Employees, judges and contractors must receive their first dose of a vaccine by Oct. 18 and be fully vaccinated by Nov. 15.
"We work with our experts to weigh what's best for the courthouse, for the health and safety of the employees and the public in the courthouse," Edward Friedland, the district court executive, said in an interview.
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The policy will apply to roughly 800 people in the district's courthouses in Manhattan and White Plains, which often are the venue for some of the biggest white collar cases nationally.
The mandate came after President Joe Biden on Sept. 9 announced policies requiring most federal employees in the executive branch to get COVID-19 vaccinations amid a surge in hospitalizations and deaths fueled by the Delta variant of the coronavirus.
The policy did not apply to the judiciary. A handful of federal court districts have adopted vaccine requirements, including in New Jersey, Maryland, the Southern District of Florida and the Southern District of Texas.
The federal bankruptcy courts in the Southern District of New York will follow the same policy, Friedland said. Medical and religious exemption requests will be considered.
Employees, judges and contractors in SDNY must also continue to follow its current COVID-19 safety policies in the interim, including twice-weekly testing and submission of proof of testing and results for employees who are not yet fully vaccinated.
The court already was requiring anyone, including visitors, who went to the district's courthouses to have their temperature taken and answer questions related to whether they had symptoms or been near anyone with COVID-19.
Those who were vaccinated could bring in proof of their status and certify that they would not come in if they were sick or tested positive, rather than answer the questionnaire every day, Friedland said.