New York City’s vaccine mandate for municipal workers has taken effect, and just 34 police officers have refused it – a far cry from the 10,000 threatened by the NYPD’s union.
Under the mandate announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio, all city municipal employees – including police, firefighters, and other civil servants – must either get vaccinated for Covid-19 or be put on unpaid leave.
Hundreds of city workers protested the mandate, and the New York Police Department’s largest union, the Police Benevolent Association, claimed it would take thousands of cops off the streets.
“As of Thursday morning,” the PBA warned last week, “there were approximately 10,000 unvaccinated, uniformed NYPD members – which equals the staffing of dozens of patrol precincts – who will be barred from reporting for duty on Monday, Nov 1, unless they have applied for a religious or medical exemption.”
The union’s president, Patrick Lynch, particularly slammed Police Commissioner Dermot Shea for going along with the plan.
“Commissioner Shea and his team should have told the Mayor that this mandate and his arbitrary Friday deadline were going to throw NYPD operations into chaos,” Mr Lynch said on Thursday.
On Monday, however, that chaos failed to materialise. Less than three dozen NYPD officers were put on unpaid leave, and the department reported no interruption in service.
“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,” Mr Shea said on Monday.
Meanwhile, vaccination rates jumped. Since 20 October, when the mandate was announced, the proportion of NYPD employees who’d received at least one shot rose from 70 to 84 per cent, according to CNN. In the New York Fire Department, that number increased from 58 to 77 per cent, and in the Department of Sanitation it leapt from 62 to 83 per cent.
But while few workers were suspended over the mandate, a high number of them did call out sick. On Monday, 2,300 city firefighters stayed home from work, citing health reasons. On a normal day, less than 1,000 do so, according to FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.
"Since the mandate was issued, our medical leave spiked up and we know that," Mr Nigro said on Monday. “The majority of them are unvaccinated. This is completely unacceptable.”
Mayor de Blasio said anyone faking sick to avoid getting vaccinated would be held accountable.
“When a city employee fakes it and puts other people’s lives in danger, that’s a serious thing and there are going to be consequences for that,” the mayor said.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies