CORONAVIRUS

NYC braces for fewer cops, more trash as vax deadline looms

Oct 29, 2021, 8:08 AM

People march across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest the Covid-19 vaccine mandate for municipal worke...

People march across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest the Covid-19 vaccine mandate for municipal workers on October 25, 2021 in New York City. All city workers, excluding uniformed correction officers, are required to have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 5pm on October 29th. (Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

(Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — Mounting trash. Closed firehouses. Fewer police and ambulances on the street.

That’s the possibility New York City is bracing for come Monday as a COVID-19 vaccine mandate looms and thousands of municipal workers remain unwilling to get the shots.

Police officers, firefighters, garbage collectors and most other city workers face a 5 p.m. Friday deadline to show proof they’ve gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Workers who don’t comply will be put on unpaid leave starting Monday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio held firm on the mandate as firefighters rallied Thursday outside his official residence, sanitation workers appeared to be skipping garbage pick ups in protest and the city’s largest police union went to an appeals court seeking a halt to the vaccine requirement.

Pat Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association, said the hard deadline “sets the city up for a real crisis.” Andrew Ansbro, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, warned longer response times will “be a death sentence to some people.”

De Blasio said Thursday that the city has contingencies to maintain adequate staffing and public safety, including mandatory overtime and extra shifts — tools that he said were typically used “in times of challenging crisis.”

The mayor called the sanitation slowdowns “unacceptable” and said that department will move to 12-hour and Sunday shifts to ensure trash doesn’t pile up.

“My job is to keep people safe — my employees, and 8.8 million people,” De Blasio said at a virtual news briefing. “And until we defeat COVID, people are not safe. If we don’t stop COVID, New Yorkers will die.”

People who refuse to get vaccinated are now a big factor in the continued spread of the virus. Backers of mandates say New Yorkers have a right not to be infected by public servants unwilling to get the shots.

Nearly one-quarter of city employees covered by the impending mandate have yet to receive at least one vaccine dose as of Thursday, including 26% of police personnel, 29% of firefighters and EMS workers and 33% of sanitation workers, according to city data. City jail guards have another month to comply.

The fire department said it was prepared to close up to 20% of its fire companies and have 20% fewer ambulances in service while changing schedules, canceling vacations and turning to outside EMS providers to make up for expected staffing shortages.

Ansbro said up to 40% of firehouses could have to close.

“The department must manage the unfortunate fact that a portion of our workforce has refused to comply with a vaccine mandate for all city employees,” Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, who had COVID-19 in January, said his department was sending reminders to workers whose records indicated they hadn’t yet received a shot and that NYPD vaccination sites will remain open all weekend.

More than 700 officers were vaccinated on Thursday alone, the NYPD said, rushing to meet the deadline for the mandate and an extra incentive: workers who get a shot by Friday at a city-run vaccination site will get $500.

“On Monday, when this thing really starts being enforced, we’re going to check the vaccination status and if you’re not vaccinated, no pay and you’re going to be not able to work,” Shea said in a video message Wednesday to officers. “I don’t think anyone wants that to happen. I don’t think you want it to happen. I certainly don’t. We need you out there.”

Fire department officials are holding virtual meetings with staff, explaining the mandate and imploring them to get vaccinated.

A Staten Island judge on Wednesday refused a police union’s request for a temporary restraining order on the mandate, but she ordered city officials into her courtroom next month to explain why the requirement shouldn’t be reversed. If the mandate is deemed illegal, workers put on leave will be given back pay, the city said.

Mike Salsedo, 44, was among hundreds of firefighters protesting Thursday outside de Blasio’s residence, Gracie Mansion. He said he believes he has natural immunity to COVID-19 after having the disease last year and doesn’t need to be vaccinated, a stance that’s contrary to the consensus among public health experts.

“I’m a man of faith, and I don’t believe that putting something manmade into my body is good,” Salsedo said.

Another firefighter, Jackie-Michelle Martinez, said the ability to choose was “our God-given right” as she questioned the city’s decision to move away from its previous policy, which allowed workers to stay on the job if they had a negative COVID-19 test.

“If the weekly testing is working, why are you, Mayor de Blasio, eliminating it?” she asked.

COVID-19 is the leading cause of death of law enforcement officers in the U.S., killing 498 officers since the start of 2020 compared to 102 gun deaths, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks police fatalities.

De Blasio on Thursday credited the impending deadline for moving the needle on vaccinations across city government. In the last week, the number of affected workers who’ve gotten at least one dose rose from 71% to 76%.

When the state required all workers at hospitals and nursing homes to get vaccinated, a last minute rush of people to comply meant that few facilities experienced staffing challenges.

“We expected that a lot of the vaccinations would happen toward the end of the deadline,” de Blasio said. “We also know a lot of people make the decision once they really realize that they’re not going to get paid. That’s just the human reality.”

___

On Twitter, follow Michael Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak, Michelle L. Price at twitter.com/michellelprice and Karen Matthews at twitter.com/1karenmatthews

KSL 5 TV Live

Coronavirus

Deer Creek Reservoir...

Alex Cabrero

State parks expecting another record visitation year, hiring more workers

It didn't matter how cold or snowy it was at Deer Creek State Park Friday afternoon. Nothing was going to stop Leonard Sawyer from taking his boat out to do a little fishing.

18 days ago

FILE —  Respiratory virus illness activity continues to increase across the US.
(Joe Burbank/Orl...

Emma Benson

‘Not viruses to mess around with’: Experts urge caution during ongoing ‘tripledemic’

Experts say though not as severe as last year, this winter we're seeing another "tripledemic" – rising cases of COVID-19, flu and RSV in Utah.

2 months ago

FILE - COVID-19 antigen home tests. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison, File)Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS...

Emma Benson

‘The ICUs are full:’ Keep yourself and others healthy this holiday

It's time for holiday gatherings, but with more people around us comes a greater risk of getting sick.

2 months ago

Julianna Preece goes through the mountain of medical documents she's acquired for her health condit...

Lauren Steinbrecher

Herriman couple is suing CVS, says 5x Covid vaccine dose mistake caused health problems

A couple is suing a Utah CVS vaccination clinic, saying a nurse’s mistake led to the wife receiving five times the normal COVID-19 vaccine dose and caused serious health issues she’s still dealing with today.

3 months ago

FILE - COVID-19 antigen home tests. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison, File)Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS...

Associated Press

More free COVID-19 tests from the government are available for home delivery through the mail

Americans can order more free COVID-19 tests online for home delivery.

4 months ago

FILE - Doses of the anti-viral drug Paxlovid are displayed in New York, Aug. 1, 2022. The COVID-19 ...

Amanda Seitz, Associated Press

COVID-19 treatments to enter the market with a hefty price tag

The COVID-19 treatments millions of have taken for free from the federal government will enter the private market next week with a hefty price tag.

4 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

NYC braces for fewer cops, more trash as vax deadline looms