“There’s this coercive element that is hard to ignore in all of this urgency,” Mr. Crampton, a senior counsel for the Thomas More Society, a conservative law firm that handles religious freedom cases, said. He would not identify the plaintiffs but said many are Catholic and some Protestant.
Pope Francis and the leaders of many major religions have endorsed vaccine mandates.
The plaintiffs, like other health care workers opposing the mandate, contend that the state is not taking into account that some of them have already had Covid-19 and believe they have a natural immunity.
But scientists say that prior infection does not fully protect people, and available data shows that while breakthrough infections in vaccinated people are rising, vaccines still greatly reduce the risk of infection, hospitalization and death.
Understand Vaccine and Mask Mandates in the U.S.
- Vaccine rules. On Aug. 23, the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and up, paving the way for an increase in mandates in both the public and private sectors. Private companies have been increasingly mandating vaccines for employees. Such mandates are legally allowed and have been upheld in court challenges.
- Mask rules. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July recommended that all Americans, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public places within areas experiencing outbreaks, a reversal of the guidance it offered in May. See where the C.D.C. guidance would apply, and where states have instituted their own mask policies. The battle over masks has become contentious in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.
- College and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities are requiring students to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Almost all are in states that voted for President Biden.
- Schools. Both California and New York City have introduced vaccine mandates for education staff. A survey released in August found that many American parents of school-age children are opposed to mandated vaccines for students, but were more supportive of mask mandates for students, teachers and staff members who do not have their shots.
- Hospitals and medical centers. Many hospitals and major health systems are requiring employees to get a Covid-19 vaccine, citing rising caseloads fueled by the Delta variant and stubbornly low vaccination rates in their communities, even within their work force.
- New York City. Proof of vaccination is required of workers and customers for indoor dining, gyms, performances and other indoor situations, although enforcement does not begin until Sept. 13. Teachers and other education workers in the city’s vast school system will need to have at least one vaccine dose by Sept. 27, without the option of weekly testing. City hospital workers must also get a vaccine or be subjected to weekly testing. Similar rules are in place for New York State employees.
- At the federal level. The Pentagon announced that it would seek to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for the country’s 1.3 million active-duty troops “no later” than the middle of September. President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees would have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel.
State vaccination figures show that, as of Wednesday, 16 percent of the state’s roughly 450,000 hospital workers, or about 70,000 people, were not fully vaccinated. The data show that 15 percent of staff at skilled nursing facilities and 14 percent of workers at adult care facilities are also not fully vaccinated, representing another 25,000 or so workers.
There are no clear data on how many of those have absorbed unfounded anti-vaccination ideas through word of mouth, social media or politically inflected cable news; how many have not managed to take time off to get vaccinated; and how many have concerns about their personal health.
But what it adds up to is angst on all sides.
“Nobody should be put in these types of positions,” Ms. Leslie said on Sunday.
She has gotten other vaccines, she said, but she believes the Covid-19 shot would be risky for her, even though the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, an advocacy group, broadly recommends vaccination for people with her condition. With her medical exemption rejected, she asked for a religious one.