About 9,000 New York City workers, including firefighters and police officers, were placed on unpaid leave Monday for not complying with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
“Nine thousand people [were] placed on leave without pay today,” Mitch Schwartz, a spokesperson for de Blasio’s office, told media outlets on Monday. “The rest are in various stages of having their accommodation requests reviewed. They can be at work.”
Data released by the mayor’s office on Sunday night said that about 22,800 municipal workers are not vaccinated. Around the same time, de Blasio wrote on Twitter that “more than half of the workers who haven’t been vaccinated yet have submitted exemption requests and those requests are being processed.”
A day earlier, the Democrat mayor confirmed that 91 percent of city workers got the vaccine as of Saturday night, a jump of about 8 percent from the previous day.
Starting Monday, city workers who have not got at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine would be placed on leave, triggering concerns about shortages of firefighters, EMS workers, and police officers.
De Blasio, however, said during a news conference on Monday the vaccine requirement has not led to service interruptions at police, fire, or sanitation offices around the city. A high number of employees called in sick, he said.
“We have every reason to believe there’s a lot of people out there claiming to be sick who are not and it’s not acceptable. So the thing to do is to do the right thing. Come to work, protect people as you took an oath to do,” de Blasio said Monday.
New York City’s fire chief, Daniel Nigro, said that the increase in sick calls are “related to protests against the mandate, it’s obvious.” He added: “Generally 200 people come into our medical office every day, in this past week, it’s been 700 a day. Most, the majority of them, are unvaccinated. This is completely unacceptable.”
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said in the news conference that his agency has an 85 percent vaccination rate as of Monday.
“Members of the police department responded to this [vaccine mandate], they came to work as they always do and there is literally no effect on service at this point,” Shea said.
In contrast to de Blasio’s remarks, the heads of various unions said that they expect departments to be closed down over the mandate and staffing shortages.
It is “not entirely clear how many fire companies will be closed” on Monday as a result of the mandate, Andy Ansbro, the president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association union, said in publicly available remarks.
“We’re here today because of a mandate that was put on the, you know, our members, but also on all New York City employees given nine days to make a life-changing decision on their career or whether or not they can take a vaccine,” he added. “And we’re going to live with the aftermath of this right now.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), who represents areas in New York City, warned that 26 firehouses stopped operations on Saturday due to the mandate.
“As of 7:30 this morning, 26 FDNY stations, including five in my district, have closed due to Mayor de Blasio’s decision to lock unvaccinated firefighters out of work,” Malliotakis said in an Oct. 30 statement.
The Fire Department of New York City and de Blasio’s office have not immediately responded to a request for comment.