Politics & Policy

Thousands of Unvaccinated NYC Workers Placed on Unpaid Leave

New York City Fire Department (FDNY) union members, municipal workers and others demonstrate during a protest against the city’s vaccine mandates in New York City, October 28, 2021. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Around 9,000 New York City municipal workers were placed on unpaid leave Monday morning after refusing to get vaccinated for coronavirus ahead of the Friday deadline, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Among municipal workers, about 90 percent have received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine, leaving just under 23,000 workers unvaccinated as of Sunday evening, according to the New York Times.

Roughy half of unvaccinated workers have applied for medical exemptions to the mandate and were able to continue to work while their applications are pending, PIX 11 and ABC 7 NY reported.

While the specific nature of the medical exemption requests were unclear, Uniformed Firefighters Association head Andrew Ansboro has argued that as much as 70 percent of city firefighters have already contracted COVID-19 and thus have acquired immunity. City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi, however, has said the “strength and duration of that immunity remains unknown.”

City departments with the lowest vaccination rates include the Department of Corrections (63 percent), the Fire Department (75 percent), and Department of Sanitation (82 percent), while the NYPD recorded an 84-percent vaccination rate as of Sunday. Officials from the FDNY union warned at a news conference on Monday that response times could rise amid staffing shortages caused by the mandate.

Amid the potential for possible worker shortages, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration insisted that municipal services would continue.

“With such strong numbers and dedicated public servants who never fail to go above and beyond, we expect services to run smoothly,” de Blasio press secretary Danielle Filson said in a statement. “With such strong numbers and dedicated public servants who never fail to go above and beyond, we expect services to run smoothly.”

Complaints about sanitation service disruptions rose last week and Sanitation Commissioner Edward Gray acknowledged that the vaccine mandate was contributing to the issue, though he denied reports of a coordinated “sick out.”

More than 2,000 of the city’s 11,000 firefighters took sick days last week, prompting reports of delayed response times and firehouse closures, though Uniformed Firefighters Association president Andrew Ansbro denied that a coordinated sick-out was underway, suggesting instead that the firefighters were suffering the effects of vaccination.

Editor’s Note 3:00 p.m.: This article was updated to include the number of municipal workers placed on leave on Monday.

Send a tip to the news team at NR.

Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.


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