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N.Y.C. Workers Face Suspension as Vaccine Deadline Arrives

  New York City will start enforcing its Covid vaccine mandate for municipal workers on Monday, and thousands of workers who refused to ge...

 


New York City will start enforcing its Covid vaccine mandate for municipal workers on Monday, and thousands of workers who refused to get vaccinated are expected to be told to stay home.

 

But city officials said that they believed they could cope with the reduction in workers without a significant slowdown of city services. With measures such as shuffling firefighters between companies and extending the workday for sanitation workers, city agencies have been taking steps to shore up coverage in the lead up to the mandate.

 

Unvaccinated municipal employees without a medical or religious exemption — or a pending request for one — will be placed on unpaid leave.

 

Danielle Filson, press secretary for Mayor Bill de Blasio, said in a statement, “Over 91 percent of New York City workers have stepped up for their communities and gotten the shot.”

 

“With such strong numbers and dedicated public servants who never fail to go above and beyond, we expect services to run smoothly,” she added.

 

At the New York Police Department, officials estimate that as many as 2,500 employees could be placed on leave on Monday as the department begins enforcing the vaccine mandate, according to a high-ranking official, who added that the number was falling because some personnel were getting immunized at the last minute.

 

The Police Department, which has about 36,000 uniformed officers and 19,000 civilian employees, was confident that it could manage the absences without taking measures such as canceling days off and moving to 12-hour shifts, said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

 

The Sanitation Department has put workers on 12-hour shifts and told many to plan to come in on Sundays.

 

The vaccine mandate has been especially contentious within the tight-knit Fire Department. More than 2,000 New York City firefighters — out of a total uniformed force of about 11,000 — have taken sick days over the past week in what city officials describe as a large-scale protest against the mandate.

 

“Irresponsible bogus sick leave by some of our members is creating a danger for New Yorkers and their fellow firefighters,” the fire commissioner, Daniel A. Nigro, said in a statement. He attributed the uptick in sick leave to “anger at the vaccine mandate.”

 

What to Know About Covid-19 Booster Shots

 

The F.D.A. has authorized booster shots for millions of recipients of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Pfizer and Moderna recipients who are eligible for a booster include people 65 and older, and younger adults at high risk of severe Covid-19 because of medical conditions or where they work. Eligible Pfizer and Moderna recipients can get a booster at least six months after their second dose. All Johnson & Johnson recipients will be eligible for a second shot at least two months after the first.

 

Yes. The F.D.A. has updated its authorizations to allow medical providers to boost people with a different vaccine than the one they initially received, a strategy known as “mix and match.” Whether you received Moderna, Johnson & Johnson or Pfizer-BioNTech, you may receive a booster of any other vaccine. Regulators have not recommended any one vaccine over another as a booster. They have also remained silent on whether it is preferable to stick with the same vaccine when possible.

 

The C.D.C. has said the conditions that qualify a person for a booster shot include: hypertension and heart disease; diabetes or obesity; cancer or blood disorders; weakened immune system; chronic lung, kidney or liver disease; dementia and certain disabilities. Pregnant women and current and former smokers are also eligible.

 

The F.D.A. authorized boosters for workers whose jobs put them at high risk of exposure to potentially infectious people. The C.D.C. says that group includes: emergency medical workers; education workers; food and agriculture workers; manufacturing workers; corrections workers; U.S. Postal Service workers; public transit workers; grocery store workers.

 

Yes. The C.D.C. says the Covid vaccine may be administered without regard to the timing of other vaccines, and many pharmacy sites are allowing people to schedule a flu shot at the same time as a booster dose.

 

The personnel shortage has put a strain on Fire Department operations. The department said that all its firehouses remained open, but that maintaining coverage across the city had required shuffling personnel around to reconstitute fire companies.

 

Andrew Ansbro, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, the union that represents rank-and-file firefighters, said that there had been no organized sickout. But hundreds of firefighters were feeling the side effects of vaccine doses and were too unwell to work, Mr. Ansbro said in a phone interview Sunday morning. “Hundreds of guys are feeling flulike symptoms, because that’s what the shot does to people,” Mr. Ansbro said.

 

By Sunday, some 90 percent of municipal workers had gotten at least one shot, leaving just under 23,000 unvaccinated.

 

The number of employees with approved exemptions — or pending ones — is unclear. But it could be that the number of people placed on unpaid leave on Monday is relatively small compared with the number that go on leave in the days ahead — should those applications for exemptions be mostly rejected.

 

The Police Department, for instance, has received applications for exemptions for some 6,500 officers, according to the official. Over the next two weeks, the department is expected to decide most of those cases, the official said, adding that a large portion of the requests would most likely be denied.

 

Nevertheless, the city reported on Sunday that 84 percent of the Police Department had gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, up from 70 percent on Oct. 19. Three-quarters of firefighters had gotten their first doses by Sunday, officials said.

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