New York Mayor Bill de Blasio enacted a city-wide mandate on Monday requiring all city workers to have taken the coronavirus vaccine. Those who have not – 9,000 employees – will be on unpaid leave until they comply or quit. The city has more than 300,000 employees. Mr de Blasio said nine out of 10 city employees are vaccinated and that he does not expect disruptions to city services as a result of the mandate.
Within the city's fire department, one in four firefighters is unvaccinated.
On Monday, Joe Scarborough addressed backlash to the mandate on his Morning Joe show on MSNBC, calling for firefighters who are taking sick leave instead of getting vaccinated to be fired.
"If you're ordered to go to work, and you don't go to work, and public safety is at risk, you're fired that day," Mr Scarborough said, citing Ronald Regan's firing of striking air traffic controllers in 1981.
Mr Scarborough summed up his feelings on what should be done to the firefighters with one phrase: "Fire them."
The New York Times covered the sick leave story ahead of the implementation of the city's vaccine mandate, reporting that 2,000 city firefighters have still not been vaccinated.
"Irresponsible, bogus sick leave is creating a danger for New Yorkers and their fellow firefighters," Daniel L Nigro, the city's fire commissioner, told the paper. He claimed the uptick in sick leave was in part backlash to the vaccine mandate.
Mr Scarborough said the public servants were "betraying the people of New York”.
On average, 1,000 firefighters in the city might be out sick at one time. That number has shot up to 2,300 per day.
A spokesman for the firefighter's union said that the workers may be calling out sick with "flu-like" symptoms because they are taking the vaccinations and suffering side effects.
Mr Scarborough scoffed at the claim that the firefighters were all experiencing side effects from the vaccine. Only 22 per cent of recipients of the vaccines report headaches, and an even smaller percentage – about 16 per cent – report feelings of nausea and dizziness.
The talk show host suggested they should “get back to work”.
The NYPD reported that 84 per cent of its staff were compliant with the vaccine mandate. The police department said it would “be prepared for any changes in personnel due to the mandate” in a statement.
The city’s sanitation department, which reported 79 per cent of its staff as vaccinated, said it was preparing to deal with worker shortfalls. Analysts have raised concerns that shortfalls within the sanitation department’s staffing could result in trash pile-ups in the city.
Thus far, no fire houses, police precincts, or other city offices have had to close as a result of staffing shortages due to the mandate.
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