Hundreds of firefighters in New York City opted for sick leave on Friday rather than comply with Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio’s deadline for all city employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine or be put on unpaid leave, resulting in the closure of several fire stations due to a shortage of personnel.
“The excessive sick leave … because of their anger at the vaccine mandate for all city employees is unacceptable,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro, who manages the department, said.
More than a quarter of his staff had not yet taken even a single dose of the vaccine.
Nigro went on to say that firefighters’ decisions to sit out may “endanger the lives” of NYC residents, noting further he believes the ‘sick out’ was “contrary to their oaths to serve.”
Under de Blasio’s mandate, all city employees were required to show supervisors proof of at least one dose of the vaccine by 5 p.m. local time on Friday or run the risk of being place in an unpaid leave status come Monday.
The FDNY has not shuttered any of its fire stations permanently but DailyMail.com reported that it is not clear which stations closed or for how long.
“Despite these actions by some, the department will continue to respond to all calls for help that come our way,” said Nigro.
According to vaccine statistics reported by the outlet, the FDNY and the city’s maintenance workers are among the lowest public service sector employees vaccinated. Before Friday, just 67 percent of FDNY personnel were vaccinated, the same percentage as maintenance staff. By Friday, the percentages climbed to 70 percent and 76 percent, respectively, far behind the 84 percent of NYPD and city EMS personnel by Friday.
Niger said that his personnel would still be allowed to get shots on Saturday and Sunday, so long as they show up on Monday with proof of being vaccinated, in order to avoid being placed in an unpaid leave status.
Niger on Friday said that six members of Ladder 113, who were on duty, drove their truck to the office of a state senator and berated staff members over the vaccine mandate, which resulted in suspension and further disciplinary action, according to the New York Post.
“This is a highly inappropriate act by on-duty members of this Department who should only be concerned with responding to emergencies and helping New Yorkers and not harassing an elected official and his staff,” said Nigro.
Some of the six firefighters told staffers at State Senator Zellnor Myrie’s office they will have “blood on their hands” over the vaccine mandate if FDNY personnel are dismissed or suspended over failure to take the vaccine.
A spokesman for Myrie’s office also said one of the Ladder 113 personnel also said they wouldn’t respond to a fire call at the senator’s home.
“I am outraged,” Myrie told NBC4 which fire reported the incident.
“One, that on duty officers who were supposed to be focused on keeping us safe and responding to emergencies would attempt to use their uniforms and their fire truck to intimidate my staff,” he said, noting further, “and secondly, it is disturbing that they would approach a state elected official for a city mandate and would I think offer veiled threats about my own safety by asking where I live personally.”
The FDNY plans to close around 20 percent of its fire stations due to the number of personnel who refuse to take the vaccine, The Post noted in a separate report, adding that NYPD would also face a shortage of officers.
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