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De Blasio: About 45% of NYC municipal workers exempt from COVID-19 vaccine

As of Oct. 19, 58% of the FDNY's

As of Oct. 19, 58% of the FDNY's firefighting personnel were vaccinated. Credit: AP/Seth Wenig

About 45% of New York City municipal employees’ requests for exemption from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s coronavirus-vaccine mandate have been approved, according to his spokesperson.

The requests, about 12,400 in total, seek a "reasonable accommodation" on the basis of medical condition or religious objection to the mandate, which was announced Oct. 20. It covers about 160,500 workers, including police, firefighters, sanitation personnel and others. Thousands more requests must still be adjudicated, said Mitch Schwartz, de Blasio's spokesperson.

To qualify for an exemption, an employee's medical condition must preclude vaccination; a claim of religious objection must be sincerely held and preexisting.

Of the requests filed, 1,422 had been approved as of Monday, 1,710 have been denied, and there are 9,000 more remaining to be adjudicated, Schwartz said.

During a pending request, an employee is subject to mandatory weekly testing.

A denial can be appealed, and the numbers provided Monday did not include how many city workers, if any, had begun the appeals process. Nor did the numbers say for which agencies the employees work.

By far, the NYPD has the largest number of city personnel requesting exemptions — 6,000 officers, Commissioner Dermot Shea said on Nov. 5; there are about 1,000 each from the FDNY and Department of Sanitation, the city has said.

De Blasio imposed the vaccine mandate months ago for health employees at city clinics and hospitals, as well as for public-school personnel like teachers, principals and aides. The mandate has since expanded to nearly the entire municipal workforce.

Those who refuse vaccination — and aren’t granted an exemption — are put on unpaid leave.

On Nov. 12, de Blasio said that about 2,600 city personnel — of a workforce totaling nearly 400,000 — were on unpaid leave.

The final category of municipal workers subject to the mandate are Department of Correction personnel, for whom the rule goes into effect Wednesday. Those workers got additional time due to chaos and staffing shortages at the city Rikers Island jails.

Within hours of de Blasio announcing the mandate, several labor union leaders predicted their members wouldn't budge on vaccination — and warned of staffing shortages at essential posts like firehouses.

Andrew Ansbro, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, said that October afternoon of top FDNY personnel: "They’re hearing exactly what we’re hearing — the chiefs are hearing from members that are saying, they will absolutely not comply."

As of Oct. 19, 58% of the FDNY’s firefighting personnel were vaccinated. As of Monday, the number was 91%, according to a daily spreadsheet Schwartz sent.

Ansbro could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

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