More than 26,000 New York City government employees, including firefighters, police officers, and sanitation workers, flouted the deadline for Mayor Bill de Blasio's COVID-19 vaccine mandate, according to data provided by his office.
The workers had until Friday at 5 p.m. to get the shots and claim a $500 bonus. On Monday, the unvaccinated city workers will be sent home without pay, potentially jeopardizing response times by first responders and interrupting other city services.
The new figures show 89% of city workers have taken at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, with 19,000 city workers inoculated since de Blasio announced a vaccine mandate and eliminated the alternative for weekly testing on October 20th. New York City carries a public workforce of 378,000 people, and about 159,000 are under the new mandate.
While 30 agencies have vaccination rates at or above 90%, the NYPD, New York Fire Department (FDNY), emergency medical services (EMS) and the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) continue to show rates below 85%.
Still, there have been marked improvements from some agencies. According to the data, the NYPD's vaccination rate rose to 84% on Friday, up from 79% the day prior. FDNY's rate increased to 77% from 69%. The Sanitation Department went from 67% to 77% . The Department of Correction, which is exempt from the mandate until December, continues to have the lowest vaccination rate at 54%.
De Blasio took to Twitter to praise city workers, saying "they won't stop until the job's done."
But even with greater participation, labor unions continue to balk at the mandate, notably fire unions that have staged numerous rallies opposing the mandate over the past week. Figures show that while 84% of FDNY employees have abided by the mandate, more than 4,000 of them might not be able to come in next Monday. About 8,300 NYPD employees also remain unvaccinated. The police department held a retirement drive Friday and Saturday for employees who didn't want to take the vaccines.
An unspecified number of firefighters have since gone on medical leave since the mandate began, temporarily knocking out service at a number of fire companies, according to the FDNY. Manhattan Community Board 12 sent out an email on Friday to residents warning of possible firehouse closures might occur in Inwood.
"As early as this weekend, you may see firehouses closed due to workforce shortages," read the email obtained by WNYC/Gothamist. "This will result in longer response times for fires and medical emergencies. Residents in Inwood may need to wait for companies in the Bronx to show up. I know Engine 95 and ladder 36 is short-staffed this weekend with the possibility of closing. These closings could be fatal!"
The FDNY maintains no firehouses have been closed.
In a statement, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the “excessive sick leave by a group of our firefighters because of their anger at the vaccine mandate for all city employees is unacceptable, contrary to their oaths to serve, and may endanger the lives of New Yorkers. Despite these actions by some, the Department will continue to respond to all calls for help that come our way.”
The impact is apparent for residents experiencing slow trash pick-ups. As reported by WNYC/Gothamist, 311 complaints for lack of trash pick-up increased dramatically since the mandate was announced.