Some Fear Staffing Shortages at FDNY, NYPD, and DSNY Monday, but City Leaders Planning to Compensate
By Yehudit Garmaise
Unvaccinated city workers in New York City will be put on unpaid leave if they do not get their first shots by 5 pm tomorrow, and city officials are worried that 20% of the city’s fire companies will close and 20% of the city’s ambulances will be taken off the streets, as a result of worker shortages.
This morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that in city agencies, 64% of the FDNY is vaccinated, 75% of EMS is vaccinated, 74% of the NYPD, and 67% of the Sanitation Department.
“The Fire Department must manage the unfortunate fact that a portion of our workforce has refused to comply with a vaccine mandate for all city employees,” said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro. “We will use all means at our disposal, including mandatory overtime, mutual aid from other Emergency Medical Services (EMS) providers, and significant changes to the schedules of our members.
“We will ensure the continuity of operations and safety of all those we have sworn oaths to serve.”
Mayor de Blasio said this morning that he is “very confident that many workers will get vaccinated in advance of the deadline, and he is very confident in the city’s contingency plans.”
The mayor, who said he was not having second thoughts about his vaccine mandate, said that he expected many city workers to wait until the last minute to get their shots.
He added that many people want to perform the jobs of city workers, who receive excellent benefits and pay, and that the city would have no trouble replacing the unvaccinated.
“Now they are dealing with the reality that their pay is about to end,” the mayor said. “People said there was going to be horrible dislocation after the Department of Education (DOE) vaccine mandate, but it was almost as if there was no transition, and we ended up with 96% vaccination, and since the DOE deadline, 3,500 have come back and gotten vaccinated.
"This is a dynamic moment. We have seen thousands of vaccinations in the last days, and I think we will see a lot more over the weekend."
“When it comes to mandates, we like what we see.”
Today, however, fire unions are encouraging unvaccinated members to show up at firehouses on Monday, one reporter pointed out. In addition, hundreds of city workers protested the vaccine mandate in front of Gracie Mansion this morning."
“If folks show up who are not vaccinated, as with every other agency under the mandate, they are not getting paid,” said Mayor de Blasio, who said that unvaccinated city employees who show up at work on Monday “will be handled at a managerial level.”
Because firefighters and paramedics, who say 70% of them had COVID, union officials said they believe the FDNY has achieved “some level of herd immunity."
Many protestors say they should receive exemptions to the city's vaccine mandate because of "their natural immunity."
This morning, New York City’s Health Commission Dave Chokshi, MD, acknowledged that “prior infection does afford some degree of protection: that is not a contentious point.”
What the is issue about antibodies, Dr. Choksi said is that, “the strength and duration of that immunity remains unknown.
“What is know is that vaccination lowers your risk further. We have good evidence from many studies show that the risk of reinfection is 2.3 times lower when people are vaccinated after they have been infected, compared to people who remain uninfected.
“The vaccine is safe, we know that it works, and we know that it protects communities, regardless whether they have been previously infected, or not.”
Additionally, Jay Varma, MD, the mayor’s top health advisor, added that the scientific community may, in the future, be able to determine the precise level of immunity that provided by COVID antibodies, as we do for other infectious diseases, but more laboratory research is needed for COVID.
"The standard COVID antibody tests [right now], do not yet tell us whether you are fully protected," Dr. Varma said. "Vaccines are highly effective and safe, and even people who have been infected in the past should receive them."
Yesterday, a New York judge denied the police union’s request for a temporarily restraining order against the city’s vaccine mandate for the city’s municipal workforce.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea also foresaw the “very real possibility” of an NYPD officer shortage, starting tomorrow at 5pm.
To anticipate potential staffing gaps in the NYPD, the department also plans to compensate by asking vaccinated police officers to work overtime and double shifts, in the event that hundreds or thousands of officers choose to go on unpaid leave as a result of the mandate.