New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that about 2,500 city firefighters, or 23 percent of the city’s force, are not vaccinated on Tuesday.
Speaking to CNN, the mayor said that “we’re at about 77 percent with firefighters vaccinated,” adding that there is an unspecified number of firefighters that have requested a medical or religious exemption for the COVID-19. The Fire Department of New York reportedly employs roughly 11,000 firefighters.
Those who are seeking exemptions will be able to work while officials review their cases, he said in response to a question about reports saying approximately 2,300 firefighters called in sick on Tuesday to protest against the mandate.
“When the decision is made, either you get an exemption or you got to get vaccinated. Once you’re at that mandate point it’s, get vaccinated or lose your paycheck. It’s very straightforward,” de Blasio said, adding that “92 percent of the workforce has done the right thing.”
De Blasio then said that every mayor, every CEO, and other officials across the United States should use vaccine mandates, touting the orders as a way to boost vaccination rates.
“People respond to the deadline, and this is what’s going to make us safe. You got to do it so that we can actually end the COVID era,” the mayor claimed.
Last week, Andrew Ansbro, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, said that unvaccinated FDNY employees should report to work as usual and defy the de Blasio mandate for all city employees. Firefighters who remain unvaccinated, he added, feel slighted by the order to either get the vaccine or face termination.
“I have told my members that if they choose to remain unvaccinated, they must still report for duty,” Ansbro told a news conference. “If they are told they cannot work, it will be the department and city of New York that sends them home. And it will be the department and the city of New York that has failed to protect the citizens of New York,” he continued.
Police and firefighters in recent weeks have joined the tens of thousands of protesters against the city’s mandates, including a protest where demonstrators marched across the Brooklyn Bridge in late October.
Amid staffing shortages, the FDNY said it plans to mitigate them by forcing mandatory overtime, canceling vacations, and reassigning employees to other roles. Over the weekend, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), who represents parts of the city, claimed that 26 firehouses had been forced to close over the vaccine mandate.