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2,300 Firefighters Out ‘Sick’ as COVID-19 Vaccination Mandate Takes Effect

FDNY truck (Photo by Robert Harkness on Unsplash)

Nov. 1, 2021 By Allie Griffin

More than 2,000 firefighters have called in ‘sick’ as the city’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate took effect Monday.

More than half of the 2,300 who didn’t show up for work are believed to be unvaccinated, NBC News reported, and are apparently protesting the city’s vaccine mandate for its public workers.

In total, 23 percent of the city’s firefighters had not gotten at least one shot by Friday’s deadline and will face unpaid leave, beginning today. There are roughly 11,000 total FDNY employees, including uniformed firefighters, EMS workers and civilian employees.

FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said that 18 units out of 350 units were out of service Monday as a result of the staffing shortages.

Nigro called the number of FDNY staff out sick “phenomenal,” adding that it should normally be fewer than 1,000. He said he believes they are not showing up to work in protest of the city mandate that required them to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Friday, Oct. 29, or be placed on unpaid leave starting Monday.

He and Mayor Bill de Blasio said that while no firehouses have closed, there are many units understaffed due to firefighters calling out.

“We have every reason to believe there’s a lot of people out there claiming to be sick who are not,” de Blasio said. “It’s not acceptable…. Come to work, protect people — as you took an oath to do.”

Nigro called on his FDNY colleagues to show up to work.

“There are understaffed units,” Nigro said. “That understaffing could end immediately if members stopped [calling out] sick when they weren’t sick.”

The firefighters playing hooky will face disciplinary action, he added.

There were 26 fire units temporarily shuttered Saturday including Ladder Co. 128 in Long Island City, according to the New York Post.

The FDNY didn’t immediately respond to the Queens Post’s question of how many units in Queens have been taken out of service.

The union representing firefighters, the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, has spoken out against the vaccine mandate, arguing that its member should be able to choose for themselves whether or not to get vaccinated.

The vaccination rate of firefighters is among the lowest across city agencies, data shows, although it has increased significantly in the past week.

About 77 percent of the FDNY firefighters have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination  — up from 58 percent on Oct. 20, when Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the vaccine mandate for all city employees. Meanwhile, 88 percent of EMS workers, who are also FDNY employees, have gotten the first shot — up from 61 percent on Oct. 20.

The Department of Sanitation has also faced understaffing issues and teams worked Sunday, a day staff normally has off, to catch up with trash pickup.

The DSNY’s vaccination rate is up to 83 percent among staffers from 62 percent before the mandate was announced. Meanwhile, 85 percent of NYPD employees have gotten at least one shot — up from 70 percent prior to the mandate.

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