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New York City prepares for first responder shortage as vaccine mandate deadline approaches

Mayor Bill de Blasio believes holdouts will start to cave at the last minute.

Published: October 29, 2021 7:33am

Updated: October 29, 2021 1:11pm

New York City officials are preparing for the worst. Thousands of essential and emergency workers, including police officers, firefighters, and sanitation employees, may soon be placed on unpaid leave when the city's sweeping vaccine mandate takes effect Monday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is predicting that many city workers will opt to get vaccinated at the last minute.

"I am not having second thoughts," he said. "We expected that a lot of the vaccinations would happen toward the end of the deadline."

However, defiant sentiments are running high against the mayor's mandate as demonstrators have been gathering outside the mayor's residence, Gracie Mansion, chanting "Hold the line!"

"It's his choice to put the lives he's entrusted with in jeopardy," said Andrew Ansbro, the president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association.

Ansbro has told all of his members, whether or not they've received the vaccine, to come to work Monday. He is hoping to demonstrate that if any of them are turned away due to the mandate, the potential loss of life caused by a depleted crew rests squarely on the mayor's shoulders. 

Curtis Sliwa, the Republican candidate for New York City mayor, joined the protestors and said that if the mandate goes into effect, there will soon be "garbage everywhere," because sanitation workers will stay home. 

All workers placed on unpaid leave will be permitted to return to work once they show proof of a first vaccine dose, according to city officials. It is unclear how long workers will be permitted to remain on leave before being fired. 

The mayor is holding onto hope that past performance will predict future behavior and thousands of holdouts will appear for shots at the last minute, or shortly after the deadline, as was the case with the mandate that applies to Department of Education employees and health care workers in New York. 

Holdouts are currently being offered a $500 bonus to get vaccinated by the end of the workday Friday, a gesture de Blasio says he is offering "out of respect for the people who've done so much for us." 

The incentive appeared to have some effect, as more than 700 police officers got vaccinated on Thursday, and the Fire Department vaccination rate rose from 68% to 71%. 

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