Vaccine deadline for city employees passes; protests and vaccinations continue

Local News

CONCOURSE, The Bronx — The deadline requiring all of New York City’s municipal workers to have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine passed at 5 p.m. Friday evening. But up to 12% of them still hadn’t gotten a shot, according to the most recent city statistics.  

The mandate applies to police officers, firefighters, EMTs, sanitation workers and others. If they’re not vaccinated now, they’ll be placed on unpaid leave starting on Monday, until they do show proof of vaccination.

About 330,000 people work for New York City government.

All afternoon on Friday, a group of people protesting the city’s mandate demonstrated across the street from the building housing the Bronx Borough President’s office and the borough’s civil court.  

Madeline Brame, the founder of the Blexit political organization, was among the protesters.

“Everybody should have freedom to choose what they do with their own body,” she said.

She and some fellow members of her organization said they wanted opposition to the vaccination requirement to be heard here in the borough that’s seen some of the city’s highest COVID rates.

Protest organizer and embattled politician Andy King echoed that.

“COVID-19 is real,” he declared from the podium at the demonstration on the Grand Concourse. “But how we got here is suspect,” he claimed.

King is a former city councilmember — he’s the only member ever removed from his seat by fellow members. It was from charges of discrimination, harassment and conflict of interest. Friday, he led the Bronx protest, the third in the city this week.

Over the course of that time, the demonstrations have reduced in scale, from a massive closure of the Brooklyn Bridge on Monday, to a few blocks closed off outside Gracie Mansion on Thursday, to the few dozen people protesting on the Grand Concourse on Friday. 

However, at that last scene, a variety of city workers showed support as they passed by the protesters. From Sanitation Department trucks to NYPD vehicles and other cars, drivers honked loudly in solidarity with the demonstrators.

Those kinds of endorsements from fellow city employees could indicate that starting on Monday, when unvaccinated workers will be off the job, other municipal employees may not be able to fully carry out their work. Some could even intentionally slow down their work process.

For now, vaccination numbers continue to rise.  

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said on Friday that the vaccination rate was 80% among the department’s employees, including officers.  He tried to assure residents that that was a high enough level, along with some longer shifts and redeployments, to keep the city safe.

By the end of the day Friday, it had reached 84%.

Mayor de Blasio shared updated numbers for certain agencies — including the FDNY — Friday evening. The Department of Sanitation saw the greatest increase, increasing from 67% to 76% over the course of the day. The FDNY increased 5%, while EMS increased 7%.

Among other city agencies, the average vaccination rate was 88%, as of Thursday evening, when the latest figures were available. Every one of the more than 40 different city agencies was reporting an increase in vaccinated employees over the week, but the vaccination levels varied.

For example, the Landmarks and Preservation Commission reported 100% compliance. The Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who issued the mandate, had a 96% rate, meaning that 4% of employees who work directly for the mayor are not vaccinated. 

Near the bottom of the list were FDNY firefighters, who began Friday at 67%. The was opposed to FDNY EMS workers, who started at 77%. Of all agencies facing the Friday deadline, NYCHA was in last place Friday morning, at 65%.

The Department of Corrections was even lower at that time, at 54%, but the mayor has given DOC employees an additional month to comply with the mandate due to low employment numbers and other issues plaguing the department.

As for NYCHA, the city’s public housing agency, some residents said that they were concerned that maintenance, repairs and other work in their homes — which already have a negative reputation — could get even worse.

A resident who declined to give her name said that even though she had chosen not to get vaccinated, she felt that NYCHA housing work would be endangered unless more of the housing authority’s employees complied with the mandate.  

“We do need people to fix things, so you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to make ends meet, so just get vaccinated,” she said.

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