Mayhem is about to descend upon New York City as the COVID-19 vaccine mandate goes into play and “thousands of municipal workers remain unwilling to get the shots” reports the Associated Press. “Police officers, firefighters, garbage collectors, and most other city workers face a 5 p.m. Friday deadline to show proof they’ve gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Starting Monday, those who do not comply with the mandate will be placed on unpaid leave beginning Monday. Despite tens of thousands rallying and protesting in the big apple this week, Mayor Bill de Blasio is not backing down.
“Sanitation workers appeared to be skipping garbage pick-ups in protest and the city’s largest police union went to an appeals court seeking a halt to the vaccine requirement” reports the AP. All things point to “mounting trash. Closed firehouses. Fewer police and ambulances on the street.”
Mayor de Blasio claims the city has contingencies to maintain adequate staffing for public safety, including mandatory overtime and extra shifts; he called them tools that are typically used “in times of challenging crisis.” The mayor said “my job is to keep 8.8 million people safe” at a virtual news briefing where he called the sanitation slowdowns “unacceptable” and announced that the department will be forced to move to 12-hour and Sunday shifts to ensure trash doesn’t pile up.
Andrew Ansbro, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association warned that the resulting longer response times will “be a death sentence to some people.” President of the Police Benevolent Association, Pat Lynch, stated the deadline “sets the city up for a real crisis.”
Nearly one-quarter of city employees covered by the impending mandate have yet to receive at least one vaccine dose as of Thursday, including 26% of police personnel, 29% of firefighters and EMS workers and 33% of sanitation workers, according to city-data. City jail guards have another month to comply.
The fire department said it was prepared to close up to 20% of its fire companies and have 20% fewer ambulances in service while changing schedules, canceling vacations and turning to outside EMS providers to make up for expected staffing shortages.
Ansbro said up to 40% of firehouses could have to close.
“The department must manage the unfortunate fact that a portion of our workforce has refused to comply with a vaccine mandate for all city employees,” Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, who had COVID-19 in January, said his department was sending reminders to workers whose records indicated they hadn’t yet received a shot and that NYPD vaccination sites will remain open all weekend.
More than 700 officers were vaccinated on Thursday alone, the NYPD said, rushing to meet the deadline for the mandate and an extra incentive: workers who get a shot by Friday at a city-run vaccination site will get $500.
“On Monday, when this thing really starts being enforced, we’re going to check the vaccination status and if you’re not vaccinated, no pay and you’re going to be not able to work,” Shea said in a video message Wednesday to officers. “I don’t think anyone wants that to happen. I don’t think you want it to happen. I certainly don’t. We need you out there.”
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