Thousands of New York City cops and firefighters have claimed medical and religious exemptions to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s coronavirus-vaccine mandate — and remain on the job while the objections are scrutinized.
The mandate, which took effect Monday, covers nearly the entire 350,000 city workforce, and anyone who refuses to be vaccinated absent an exemption is to be placed on unpaid furlough.
"They'll continue to work while that's being looked at," Mayor Bill de Blasio said of the exemption claims Tuesday morning on CNN. "And then 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."
Meanwhile, in a separate television appearance Tuesday, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said the number of officers sent home for not complying with the city’s vaccine mandate has increased, but remained under 1%.
Speaking on NY1, Shea said cops sent home without pay increased Monday to 89 from 34, but fewer officers has had no appreciable effect on service. The police commissioner said he was confident there were enough officers to patrol the city.
"We want all officers back to work, but for New Yorkers, there’s no impact to public safety, and we’ll keep moving," Shea said.
The NYPD’s vaccination rate Monday was at 85%, and, Shea said, he expects the number to rise slightly as more officers returned to work later Tuesday.
Speaking Tuesday morning, de Blasio said the overall vaccination rate for the city's municipal workforce has risen to 92%. It was 91% in figures released Sunday, with the NYPD at 84%.
As of Tuesday, firefighters had a vaccination rate of 77%, while the rate for FDNY EMTs and other medics was 88% as of 5 p.m. Monday, according to figures provided by the city. The rate for city sanitation workers stood at 83%.
About 2,300 FDNY members called out sick, and most were inappropriately using sick days to protest the mayor’s mandate, FDNY Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said Monday.
On Tuesday, de Blasio said on MSNBC: "We've got some firefighters who are faking sick leave the last couple of days, saying they're sick when they're not, and leaving their fellow firefighters in a lurch and creating a danger for all New Yorkers. That is unconscionable, and I assure you, they're going to experience some consequences for what they've done."
On NY1, Shea pushed back against suggestions that certain NYPD personnel were feigning illness over the mandate.
The NYPD saw between 2% and 3% of officers and staff call out sick Monday, which is consistent with usual sick calls, he said. The department saw 4% of officers call out sick last month and that number has spiked to 5% with continued positive COVID-19 cases, Shea said.
"The number is negligible and includes uniform and civilians," Shea said. "We’re watching it closely and respond to calls, but there’s not much movement."
The department has also had 6,000 officers and staff file for medical and religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate, which are being reviewed.
"People have the right to put in and have the right to be treated seriously. The priority in my view is New Yorkers are safe," Shea said. "I’m trying to urge members to get vaccinated and keep the workforce safe."