What to Know
- NYC is expanding its vaccine mandate to all public employees with no test-out option, the mayor's office announced Wednesday
- City employees will receive $500 in their paychecks starting Wednesday if they get their first shot at a city-run vaccination site
- NYPD officers have had the option to get vaccinated or test out -- but as of Oct. 29, the 20,000 or so not yet dosed must get at least one or be placed on unpaid leave, officials said. The department's largest union says it will take legal action.
New York City is expanding its COVID-19 vaccine mandate to all public employees with no test-out option, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday.
Deadlines are different for the NYPD and FDNY versus corrections officers, but the message is the same, according to the mayor's office: Those who serve the community must take responsibility to protect the people within it and themselves.
Effective immediately, city employees will receive $500 in their paychecks if they get their first shot at a city-run vaccination site, according to the mayor's office.
The new rules affect more than 160,000 workers (including police, firefighters and correctional officers) who are not fully vaccinated, 70% of whom already had at least one shot. The president of the FDNY-Uniformed Firefighters Association said that he told members "if they choose not to get vaccinated, they must still report to duty." Nearly 45% of FDNY firefighters are unvaccinated, union president Andrew Ansbro said, and said they want testing to continue.
Meanwhile, the NYPD's largest union already warned it will take legal action to block the mandate. The Police Benevolent Association said getting vaccinated is a “personal medical decision” that officers should make in consultation with their doctors.
“Now that the city has moved to unilaterally impose a mandate, we will proceed with legal action to protect our members’ rights,” said PBA President Pat Lynch.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has said those who serve the city also have a responsibility to protect the people and communities within it from all scourges, COVID-19 included.
"The vaccine is what has allowed us to fight back against COVID and save tens of thousands of lives. And there's still a lot of city employees who are not vaccinated," de Blasio told CNN Wednesday. "I want to protect them. I want to protect their families. I want to protect all the people that they come in contact within this city."
"Law enforcement has borne the brunt of COVID. In this nation in the last two years, 460 law enforcement officers have been lost to COVID. We've got to protect them," the Democrat added. "This vaccine mandate allows us to do that."
De Blasio said the city would begin impact bargaining with affected unions immediately. Henry Garrido, executive director of District 37, the city's largest municipal employees union, acknowledged the collective bargaining requirement and said in a statement, "We expect City Hall to slow down and sit down with us."
"We encourage all our members to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their families," Garrido added.
Under an executive order signed by the mayor last month, NYPD officers must either be vaccinated or show proof of a negative COVID-19 test each week but the new order expected to become official later Wednesday means about 20,000 unvaccinated officers must get at least one dose by 5 p.m. on Oct. 29 or be placed on unpaid leave, officials said.
"We don't want that for anyone," de Blasio pleaded at his Wednesday briefing. "We just want people to get vaccinated."
The NYPD has about 34,500 uniformed personnel and about 17,700 people in non-uniformed support positions. It had a vaccination rate of 61% last month, but that number increased to 68% in less than two weeks, according to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea.
The mandate goes into effect on December 1 for uniformed members of the Department of Corrections.
The two commissioners who oversee the largest police and fire departments in the U.S. have already said earlier this month that they support the mandate for the members of their respective departments. Shea had even made impassioned pleas to officers in a video message, urging them to get inoculated.
More than 60 NYPD employees have died of COVID-19. The fire department, whose EMTs and paramedics were working around the clock in the early days of the pandemic, lost 16 workers to the virus.
A similar mandate for city Department of Education and New York City Health and Hospitals staff took effect in late September amid controversy well. As of the latest data, vaccination rates for those two groups are at 96% and 95%, respectively, de Blasio said Wednesday. No major disruptions to service have been reported.
The mayor says it's all a testament to the effectiveness of vaccine mandates to broaden protection for the city's entire population, including the most vulnerable.
Both groups have tried to challenge the mandate in courts -- with teachers taking their case all the way to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear it -- but for the most part, the argument of public health as justifying the rule has prevailed. Some legal challenges are ongoing but officials expect those won't succeed, either.
Overall, de Blasio says about 46,000 of all city employees remain unvaccinated.
"That's a lot of people, and think about their families, think about everyone they come in contact with," the mayor said. "We're fighting this war against COVID still, let's not kid ourselves. And the difference now, if we get people vaccinated, we're going to save tens of thousands of lives. If we don't, we're going to lose a lot of people who could have been saved and we're not going to get out of this morass."
New York City's Public Advocate, Jumaane Williams, said that while the city in the past has "often lacked clarity, consistency or courage" in implementing such policies, Wednesday's announcement came as a "welcome, crucial step."
"When the Mayor took too long to close down offices last year, or forced them to fully open too quickly and abruptly this month, I opposed orders that made our team less safe and set a bad model for the city. But I look forward to implementing this vaccine requirement and protecting everyone in our office as we look to return in person, safely," Williams said in a statement.
The new mandate comes shortly after the city reached an 85% milestone of residents with at least one dose of the vaccine.
The five boroughs were the first to enact one of the nation’s strictest vaccine mandates, a sweeping measure that requires shots for everyone entering a bar, restaurant, nail salon, gym or sports games, to boost the overall percentage of the population protected from COVID-19.
Mayor de Blasio continues to encourage those who have not gotten vaccinated to do so. At the rate the city is going, he says, there are only about one million adult New Yorkers left who are unvaccinated.
"At this point, there is only about one million adults left to be vaccinated and they keep coming in. The incentives the mandates, everything’s working," de Blasio said.
New York City is not the sole place that has issued vaccine mandates for public workers. New Jersey has also issued vaccine mandates in the past for state employees and teachers who are required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or get tested weekly. The mandates went into effect earlier this week.
On Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced a new executive order that calls for all new state contracts to include a clause requiring their employees to show they are fully vaccinated or they will be required to undergo weekly testing.