NYC COVID vaccine mandate extended to all city workers, though some push back

Coronavirus

NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio extended the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate to include all municipal workers on Monday. 

Most city workers will need to get vaccinated by Sept. 13 or face mandatory weekly COVID testing, according to de Blasio.

“It means all city agencies,” the mayor said, “September is when the rubber hits the road and this is when we have to make the difference.”

The mandate comes as concerns over the delta variant, which has become the dominant strain of the virus, continue to grow.

“The delta variant is deadly and this city is taking it seriously,” de Blasio tweeted Monday morning.

“Public employees should not be coming to work if there’s a danger that they will spread a deathly disease to the worker at the next desk or the public that they deal with,” New York Assemblyman Richard Gottfried said.

Last week, the mayor announced all employees at city-run hospitals and health clinics would either need to get vaccinated or have mandatory weekly testing beginning Aug. 2.

Additionally, de Blasio said 45,000 city government employees who work in congregate and residential settings will need to be vaccinated or begin weekly testing on Aug. 16.

The rest of the city’s workforce will have until the Sept. 13 deadline, according to the mayor.

The city will also double up its efforts to enforce mandatory mask wearing among unvaccinated municipal workers beginning Aug. 2.

“If you’re a city employee and you’re unvaccinated, you must wear a mask indoors at work,” the mayor said. If they’re unmasked, “they will be removed from the workplace,” he added.

Commissioner at NYC’s Office of Labor Relations Renee Campion said they will continue to have conversations with union representatives, but those who refuse getting vaccinated or weekly testing cannot go to work and will not be paid.

A spokesperson for the United Federation of Teachers said in a statement the mandate pushes the importance of vaccinations, but still allows personal choice.

“Vaccination and testing have helped keep schools among the safest places in the city. This approach puts the emphasis on vaccination but still allows for personal choice and provides additional safeguards through regular testing. There are still many things to do before we are prepared to safely open our schools in September,” the spokesperson said.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards called the mayor’s announcement a “common-sense investment in the overall safety and ultimate recovery of the city.

“The science is clear: Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the best way to protect ourselves, our families and our communities from a vicious virus that has killed more than 8,600 of our fellow Queens residents and delivered an unprecedented blow to our borough,” Richards said in a statement. “We’ve come too far and lost too much in the fight against COVID-19 to not defeat this once and for all. The vaccines are safe, free and effective.”

Staten Island City Council Member Joe Borelli, however, called the mayor’s mandate “wrong.”

“Vaccines can save your life, but no one should be mandated to take a vaccine. Medical consent is still important, even in 2021,” he said in a tweet. 

As of Monday morning, 71% of New York City adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine. About 9.8 million doses have been administered, according to the mayor.

The Uniformed Firefighters Association, which represents city firefighters, held a late afternoon news conference pushing back on the mayor’s decision. Only 50% of firefighters are vaccinated, according to the union.

UFA President Andrew Ansbro said that the union had long endorsed vaccinations, but also wanted the city to exempt its members who’d tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. 

“This union will stand against and fight any mandate” to require firefighters to be vaccinated “against their wills,” Ansbro said.  

“I believe people should get vaccinated,” he continued, “but I also believe it’s their choice.” 

Another labor organization, DC 37, the city’s largest municipal workers union, also showed resistance to the mayor’s mandate.

The union said that it also supports vaccinations.  It differed with the mayor when it comes to COVID testing.

“If City Hall intends to test our members weekly,” DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido said in a statement, “they must first meet us at the table to bargain. While we encourage everyone to get vaccinated and support measures to ensure our members’ health and wellbeing, weekly testing is clearly subject to mandatory bargaining. New York City is a union town and that cannot be ignored.”

The mayor also criticized those who are spreading disinformation about the vaccine.

The city has called on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to deplatform the “Disinformation Dozen.” 

“We have to stop it,” the mayor said. “Kick them off your sites right now. Completely. Immediately.”

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