As NYC Mandate Kicks in, Hundreds of Firefighters Take Medical Leave

Mayor says 9K workers now on unpaid leave
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 1, 2021 4:58 PM CDT
NYC Mayor Says 9K Unvaccinated Workers Now on Unpaid Leave
Firefighters rally outside Mayor Bill De Blasio's residence Gracie Mansion to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city workers, Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, in New York.   (AP Photo/Jeenah Moon)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says 9,000 city workers—around 2.4% of the total—are now on unpaid leave because of the Big Apple's vaccine mandate, which kicked in on Friday The mayor said staff shortages have not caused any disruption to services and employees placed on leave can return when they are vaccinated against COVID-19, reports Axios. De Blasio said Monday that around 12,000 religious exemptions will be evaluated "in the coming days." He said more than 90% of workers covered by the mandate are now vaccinated and urged mayors, governors, and CEO across America to bring in similar mandates "to end the COVID era once and for all."

Fire commissioner Daniel Nigro, however, said hundreds of firefighters had called in sick, apparently to protest the mandate, CNN reports. He said 2,300 FDNY firefighters were out sick on Monday, compared to 800 to 1,000 on a normal day. "Once the members come to their senses and stop using medical leave improperly, they can help out not just the citizens of the city but their brothers and sisters staffing the units," the commissioner said. He said no firehouses have been closed due to staff shortages. The department employs around 11,000 firefighters, and deputy commissioner Frank Dwyer tells NBC that the number out on medical leave is "very unusual."

Around a quarter of the city's firefighters and a sixth of police officers hadn't received a first dose of vaccine by Sunday, the AP reports. Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said most unvaccinated people in the department have applied for exemptions and only 34 police officers and 40 civilian employees are on unpaid leave. De Blasio thanked the thousands of city workers who were vaccinated over the weekend. He warned that firefighters found to be faking illness will be considered "AWOL effectively." (Last week, a judge refused to block the mandate.)

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