New York firefighters call in sick as vaccine mandate comes into force
New York, New York - Thousands of New York Fire Department (FDNY) members have called out sick over the past few days, in what city officials believe to be a protest about the mandated Covid-19 vaccination deadline for city employees, sources told the Daily News.
Some 2,000 members of the department who took sick time are believed to be feigning illness due to the mandate, the sources said.
FDNY commissioner Daniel Nigro had already suggested "bogus" sick time was being used in response to the Monday vaccine mandate deadline.
"Irresponsible bogus sick leave by some of our members is creating a danger for New Yorkers and their fellow firefighters," Nigro said in a statement on Saturday. "They need to return to work or risk the consequences of their actions."
Nigro put to rest rumors fueled by a tweet from state Representative Nicole Malliotakis that 26 FDNY companies were closed on Saturday due to a large-scale protest against the city’s vaccine mandate.
"The department has not closed any firehouses," the commissioner countered in a statement on Saturday.
The FDNY is made up of about 11,000 employees including uniformed firefighters and officers, emergency medical service and civilian employees, a FDNY spokesperson said.
Vast majority of firefighters vaccinated
As a whole, 81% of FDNY members have received at least one dose of the vaccine as of late on Sunday, according to the mayor’s office.
These numbers trail most city agencies, which have vaccination rates of at least 90%. The exceptions are the NYPD at 84%, Department of Homeless Services at 83%, Department of Sanitation at 82%, New York City Housing Authority at 75%, and Department of Correction at 63%.
City workers who cannot show proof of at least one jab will be suspended without pay on Monday. The mandate covers 160,000 municipal employees.
At an anti-vaxx protest outside Gracie Mansion Thursday, Uniformed Firefighters Association vice president Bobby Eustace said the union is not anti-vaccination, just anti-mandate.
"We want everybody to know that we are not anti-vaccination by any means, and any signs in the crowd right now that say otherwise, we don’t want to be part of that," Eustace said.
"This is about anti-mandate and anti-mandate only. That is the only stance we are taking right now."
Cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire