Vickie Paladino’s first vote as a City Council member was cast remotely because she was barred from attending in-person.

But her second vote came on the chamber floor alongside her colleagues.

What changed in the two weeks between then and now?

What You Need To Know

  • Vickie Paladino participated in a City Council meeting Thursday in-person

  • The Queens Republican has a religious waiver and is Catholic, her son says

  • But church leaders, including the pope, strongly support COVID vaccination
  • Thus far, city workers' requests for mandate exemptions have been denied more than they are approved

Not Paladino’s refusal to disclose her vaccination status, but this, according to Speaker Adrienne Adams.

“Council Member Paladino does have a waiver and she has been tested, so she is allowed on the grounds, per our policy here at City Council,” Adams told reporters.

Paladino, a newly elected Queens Republican, has a waiver on religious grounds, her son and spokesman told NY1.

She is Roman Catholic, Thomas Paladino said, declining to detail the terms of her exemption from the requirement that council members and their staff show proof of vaccination to work.

But Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church, strongly supports vaccination as a “moral obligation.”

And a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York told NY1, “We are not opposed to vaccinations; in fact, we encourage people to receive them.”

A City Council spokesman could not say if other lawmakers or staff have exemptions as Paladino does.

He cited confidentiality rules.

And Paladino’s son said Speaker Adams facilitated the waiver process. 

Council spokesman Mandela Jones said the speaker was not involved.

Municipal workers are similarly required to be vaccinated and 95% of the city workforce is.

Nearly half of the requests for waivers have been processed, with 2,100 granted and 4,200 denied, according to City Hall.

Those whose requests were rejected can appeal the decision.

A city form says a worker would not qualify for a so-called religious accommodation if the request is based solely on the belief that: “The government should not force people to get vaccines or interfere with medical decisions.”

Paladino, who flipped her Queens district to give Republicans five seats in the council, in a NY1 interview earlier this month lasting about an hour repeatedly espoused that very view.

“It’s called medical freedom. And I stand for medical — I stand for freedom period,” she said then.

She likened vaccine mandates to the authoritarianism of Nazi Germany and later apologized.

But Paladino did also say she could tolerate other COVID precautions.

“Do you support masking mandates? You’d be willing to wear a mask on the City Council chamber floors?” A NY1 reporter asked her.

“Yes, I would wear a mask on City Council chambers floors,” Paladino said. “Am I in favor of it? Absolutely not.”

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story said Paladino's refusal kept her from physically working at City Hall. The story has been updated to reflect that the councilwoman was working remotely out of the minority leader's office at City Hall.