NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said Tuesday he is fully behind New York City’s mandate aimed at getting all of its employees vaccinated against the coronavirus and will be talking with department lawyers over how to best implement the plan.
"We are going to comply with the order and we are going to move forward," Shea said during a television appearance on NY1 about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement Monday that all city employees need to be vaccinated by mid-September or take weekly COVID-19 tests in order to report to work.
De Blasio was reacting to disparate levels of vaccination among city workers, including a 43% record for the NYPD, a number that Shea noted might be distorted on the low side since it is only reporting shots given by the department’s medical units and not those administered to officers by private physicians or other services.
Overall, some 58% of city workers were reported to have been vaccinated, New York City officials said.
"To me, this isn’t complicated," Shea said Tuesday. "We have eradicated disease in this country, this [COVID-19] is another one, the vaccines work."
The police commissioner said during the TV appearance that five unvaccinated officers are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, some in "quite serious" condition.
At the peak of the crisis in 2020, about 20% of the uniformed force of about 36,000 had tested positive for the coronavirus. As of June 25, the NYPD has had 57 employees succumb to the virus, among them 11 officers, including one chief, a department spokesman said Tuesday.
With the mandate dictated on the NYPD and its unions Monday, officials were still trying to figure out Tuesday how they would address some potentially thorny issues about enforcement of the vaccination and testing requirements announced by de Blasio. Some city union officials have said the mandate is a matter for mandatory bargaining under current contracts.
Shea said he would be involved in the coming days with internal meetings with his attorneys and those of the city's Department of Health to figure out policies. One issue is whether officers would be required to submit to weekly testing for COVID on their own time or paid city time, Shea explained.
Another potential issue is the sheer size of the police department that is not vaccinated, which one union official said could be as much as 50%.
"How is this going to work?" asked the official, who didn’t want to be identified.
A spokesman for the Police Benevolent Association, the city's largest police union, said the organization was monitoring developments but had nothing new to say as of Tuesday.