New York City began implementing its Covid vaccine mandate for municipal workers on Monday, and about 9,000 workers who refused to be vaccinated have been placed on unpaid leave.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday that the city’s employee vaccination rate continued to rise, reaching 91%, and the city was functioning well despite the absences.
“We are not seeing any disruption in city services,” he said, before urging workers to get vaccinated and return to work.
City officials said they were facing the reduction in the number of workers without a significant slowdown in city services. With measures such as mixing firefighters between companies and extending the working day of sanitation workers, city agencies have stepped up coverage.
Unvaccinated municipal workers without an approved medical or religious exemption – or a pending request for one – were placed on unpaid leave.
The number of workers vaccinated at city agencies has increased in recent days, including the New York Police Department, where 85% of employees were vaccinated on Monday, up from 70% when the warrant was announced.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said on Monday that putting unvaccinated officers on unpaid leave had “literally no effect on service at this point.”
The city has a total of about 378,000 workers; about 6 percent remain unvaccinated, including those put on unpaid leave and about 12,000 workers who have requested medical or religious exemptions. Those requesting exemptions are allowed to continue working, while being tested weekly, until their case is decided.
At the New York Police Department, officials recently estimated that up to 2,500 employees could be put on leave on Monday as the department begins enforcing the vaccination mandate, according to a senior official, who added that the number was declining. because some of the staff were getting vaccinated at the last minute.
The police department, which has around 36,000 uniformed officers and 19,000 civilian employees, believed it could handle absences without taking measures such as canceling days off and moving to 12-hour shifts. said the official, who was not authorized to speak in public. .
The sanitation department put workers on 12-hour shifts and told many to plan to come on Sunday.
The vaccination mandate has been particularly controversial within the tight-knit fire department. More than 2,000 New York City firefighters – out of a total uniformed force of around 11,000 – have taken sick leave over the past week in what city officials describe as a large-scale protest. ladder against warrant.
“The irresponsible bogus sick leave of some of our members creates danger for New Yorkers and their fellow firefighters,” Fire Marshal Daniel A. Nigro said in a statement. He attributed the increase in sick leave to “anger at the vaccine mandate.”
The staff shortage has put a strain on the firefighters’ operations. The department said all of its fire stations remained open, but maintaining coverage throughout the city required moving staff to replenish the fire companies.
Andrew Ansbro, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, the union that represents grassroots firefighters, said there had been no organized illness. But hundreds of firefighters were feeling the side effects of the vaccine doses and were too sick to work, Ansbro said in a telephone interview on Sunday morning. “Hundreds of guys have flu-like symptoms, because that’s what the vaccine does to people,” Ansbro said.
As of Sunday, about 90 percent of city workers had received at least one injection, leaving just under 23,000 unvaccinated.
The number of employees with approved – or pending – exemptions is unclear. But it could be that the number of people put on unpaid leave on Monday will be relatively small compared to the number of people on leave in the days to come – if these exemption requests were to be overwhelmingly rejected.
The police department, for example, has received exemption requests for some 6,500 officers, according to the official. Over the next two weeks, the department is expected to decide most of these cases, the official said, adding that a large chunk of the claims would most likely be denied.
Nonetheless, the city reported on Sunday that 84% of police departments had received at least one dose of the vaccine, up from 70% on October 19. Three-quarters of firefighters had received their first doses on Sunday, officials said.