New York City will require all city workers to be vaccinated by the end of the month, a new mandate that will apply to more than 160,000 workers including police officers, firefighters and sanitation workers, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday.
Starting on Nov. 1, city workers must have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine and can no longer submit to regular testing as an alternative.
The new mandate, put in place after similar requirements for teachers and health care workers led to a surge in vaccinations, is the most aggressive step taken yet to boost vaccination rates in the city.
“Our public employees are going to lead us out of the Covid era,” Mr. de Blasio said on MSNBC on Wednesday morning.
Mr. de Blasio said that roughly 46,000 city workers were not yet vaccinated. Any worker who does not get vaccinated by the deadline will be placed on unpaid leave.
Those who get their first doses at city-run vaccination sites between now and Oct. 29 will receive an extra $500 in their paychecks, the mayor said.
“We need to reassure all New Yorkers that if you’re working with a public employee, they’re vaccinated,” Mr. de Blasio said.
Uniformed correction officers will initially be excluded from the new mandate because of the ongoing staffing crisis at Rikers Island, but they will be subject to the mandate as of Dec. 1, the mayor said.
The new mandate, reported first by The New York Post, builds on a July announcement that all city employees would be required to show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing. More than 70 percent of city workers affected by the new mandate have already received at least one dose of the vaccine, the mayor’s office said.
But vaccination rates vary among city agencies. The Department of Corrections has the lowest vaccination rate, with only 50 percent of workers having received at least one dose of a vaccine as of last week, according to city data. The second lowest rate is at the city’s housing authority, where 58 percent of employees are vaccinated.
The city’s fire department, emergency medical services and sanitation workers have similar vaccination rates among their workers; only about 60 percent have received at least one dose. The city’s police department has a somewhat higher rate of vaccination, with 69 percent of its workers having received at least one dose.
The vaccine mandate for Department of Education employees led to a vaccination rate of more than 96 percent among those workers.
Some labor leaders, representing thousands of workers, have resisted the idea of a city mandate.
Patrick J. Lynch, the president of the city’s largest police union, the Police Benevolent Association, said earlier this month that his union would “continue to protect the rights of members who are not vaccinated.”
But the city’s police commissioner, Dermot F. Shea, has supported a vaccine mandate for officers, though he acknowledged that it could strain the department if some officers choose to leave rather than get vaccinated.
“There’s an unknown there to a degree,” Commissioner Shea said recently. “I think we can handle it. I have 100 percent confidence in the people in this agency, they’re incredibly resilient.”
There have been more than a dozen legal challenges to vaccination mandates in New York City and state, but judges have so far broadly upheld the right of the government to mandate vaccination.
Statewide, health care workers who applied for religious exemptions from the vaccine mandate have won a preliminary injunction that allows them to keep working for now, even though religious exemptions were not permitted in the state’s vaccination order for health care workers.
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