More than 2,000 New York City firefighters took sick days in the past week in what city officials describe as a large-scale protest against the city Covid vaccination mandate for municipal workers, which will take effect on Monday.
“The false irresponsible sick leave of some of our members is creating a danger to New Yorkers and their fellow firefighters,” Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said in a statement. He attributed the increase in sick leave to “anger over the vaccine mandate.”
Fire Department Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Frank Dwyer said more than 2,000 Fire Department staff members had been on medical leave at some point in the past week, out of a total uniformed force of about 11,000.
The personnel shortage has put pressure on the Fire Department’s operations. The department said all of its fire stations remain open, but maintaining coverage across the city has required moving personnel to rebuild fire companies.
The president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, the union that represents grassroots firefighters, said there was no organized illness. But hundreds of firefighters were feeling the side effects of the vaccine doses and were too bad to work, UFA president Andrew Ansbro said in a telephone interview Sunday morning. “Hundreds of men have flu-like symptoms, because that’s what the vaccine does to people,” Ansbro said.
When the city begins enforcing the vaccination mandate on Monday, unvaccinated city employees without a doctor or religious exemption You will be placed on leave without pay. It’s unclear how the city’s downsizing of the workforce will affect services ranging from trash pickup to ambulance wait times.
By Sunday, about 90 percent of municipal workers had received at least one vaccination, leaving just under 23,000 still unvaccinated.
The city reported Sunday that 84 percent of the NYPD had received at least one dose of the vaccine, up from 70 percent on Oct. 19. Three-quarters of the firefighters had received their first doses on Sunday, authorities said.
In the week and a half since Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the mandate, more than 22,000 city workers have received their first injection and vaccination rates have risen sharply at many city agencies. Most city agencies now have vaccination rates of 90 percent or more. But some are noticeably shorter. The Sanitation Department was at 82 percent on Sunday. At the Department of Correction, only 63 percent of employees were vaccinated, although correctional officers have an additional month to get vaccinated before the mandate takes effect.
On Sunday, a small number of NYPD employees came to headquarters to present their retirement papers before the term. At 1 p.m., officials counted eight officers who had submitted their retirement papers.