NEW YORK: Waste bin assembly. Fire stations closed. Fewer police and ambulances on the streets.
That’s the possibility that New York City is preparing to come on Monday as a COVID-19 vaccine mandate looms and thousands of city workers still do not want to be vaccinated.
Police, firefighters, garbage collectors and most other city workers were facing a 5 p.m. deadline Friday to prove they had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Workers who do not comply will be placed on unpaid leave from Monday.
Mayor Bill de Blasio held his own on the mandate even as spirits heated up Friday with six firefighters suspended for taking a fire truck to a lawmaker’s office and threatening his staff over the vaccination mandate.
The incident was a dramatic escalation after firefighters and other workers gathered outside de Blasio’s official residence on Thursday, sanitation workers appeared to skip garbage collection in protest and the largest union city ââpolice went to an appeals court to request a stop to the vaccine requirement.
Pat Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association, said the strict deadline “prepares the city for a real crisis.” Andrew Ansbro, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, warned that longer response times would be “a death sentence for some people.”
De Blasio said on Thursday the city had contingencies to maintain adequate staff and public safety, including mandatory overtime and overtime shifts – tools he said were typically used “in times of difficult crisis. “.
The mayor called the slowing downs in sanitation “unacceptable” and said the department would move to 12 noon and start working on Sundays to make sure the trash does not pile up.
“My job is to keep people safe – my employees and 8.8 million people,” de Blasio said during a virtual press briefing. âAnd until we defeat COVID, people are not safe. If we don’t stop COVID, New Yorkers will die. “
People who refuse to be vaccinated are now a major factor in the continued spread of the virus. Supporters of the warrants say New Yorkers have a right not to be infected by officials who do not want to be vaccinated.
Nearly a fifth of city employees covered by the impending warrant had yet to receive at least one dose of the vaccine as of Thursday, including 21% of police officers, 29% of firefighters and EMS and 33% of sanitation workers , according to city data. . City prison guards still have a month to comply.
At 8 p.m. Thursday, 33,400 city workers were still unvaccinated. The city said it would provide updated vaccine rates on Saturday.
The fire department said it was ready to shut down up to 20% of its fire departments and have 20% fewer ambulances on duty while changing schedules, canceling vacations and turning around to external EMS providers to alleviate expected staff shortages.
“The department must deal with the unfortunate fact that part of our workforce refused to comply with a mandate to vaccinate all city employees,” said fire marshal Daniel Nigro.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, who had COVID-19 in January, said his department was sending reminders to workers whose records indicated they had not yet received a vaccine and that NYPD vaccination sites would remain open the whole weekend. Shea said thousands of officers who have requested medical and religious exemptions will be allowed to work while their cases are reviewed.
As of Friday alone, nearly 1,000 officers were vaccinated, the NYPD said, rushing to meet the mandate deadline and an added incentive: Workers who get vaccinated by Friday will receive $ 500.
âOn Monday when this thing really starts to take effect, we’re going to check the immunization status and if you’re not vaccinated, no pay and you won’t be able to work,â Shea said in a video message. Wednesday to the officers. âI don’t think anyone wants this to happen. I don’t think you wanted that to happen. I certainly don’t. We need you there.
Fire officials hold virtual meetings with staff, imploring them to get vaccinated.
A Staten Island judge on Wednesday denied a police union’s request to temporarily block the warrant, but ordered city officials to visit her courtroom next month to explain why the requirement should not be canceled. If the warrant is found to be illegal, workers on leave will receive a refund of wages, the city said.
Mike Salsedo, 44, was among hundreds of firefighters protesting outside de Blasio’s residence, Gracie Mansion on Thursday. He said he believed he had natural immunity to COVID-19 after having the disease last year and did not need to be vaccinated, a position that runs counter to consensus among public health experts.
âI’m a man of faith, and I don’t believe putting anything human in my body is good,â Salsedo said.
Another firefighter, Jackie-Michelle Martinez, said the ability to choose was “our divine right” as she questioned the city’s decision to move away from its previous policy, which allowed workers to stay in the city. work if they had negative COVID. 19 tries.
“If the weekly tests are working, why, Mayor de Blasio, are you eliminating them?” ” she asked.
COVID-19 is the leading killer of law enforcement officers in the United States, killing 498 officers since the start of 2020 compared to 102 gun deaths, according to Officer Down Memorial Page, who tracks police deaths.
De Blasio credited Thursday with the looming deadline to move the needle on vaccinations across the city government. Over the past week, the number of affected workers who received at least one dose increased from 71% to 79%.
When the state demanded that all hospital and nursing home workers get vaccinated, a last-minute rush of people to comply meant a few facilities faced staffing issues.
“We expected a large chunk of the vaccinations to occur near the end of the deadline,” de Blasio said. âWe also know that a lot of people make a decision once they really realize they won’t be paid. It’s just human reality.