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New York on Monday began enforcing a city-wide mandate that every municipal employee be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, despite vocal opposition from police and firefighters’ unions in recent weeks.
"We have real results from this mandate, and as of today, 91 percent of our city workforce is vaccinate."
Mayor Bill de Blasio said an overwhelming number of the nearly 400,000 city workers complied with the rule.
"City workers are doing the right thing. I want to thank everyone who got vaccinated."
But he’s faced small but sustained resistance from unions representing the city’s 50,000 uniformed service workers, including cops and firefighters. The mayor made clear that those who refused would face consequences.
"Come to work, protect people, as you took an oath to do."
Union officials, who said last week at least one-third of firefighters and police officers were unvaccinated, predicted worker shortages as a result of the mandate.
Andrew Ansbro, the president of the firefighters’ union, early on Monday predicted that dozens of fire companies would be forced to shut down, and urged the city to give his members more time to comply.
"Members of the New York City firefighters, fire department are being put on leave without pay. We're not clear what the numbers are, we're not entirely clear how many fire companies will be closed today. We're expecting dozens, we're hoping fire coverage is not impinged upon. But it's very hard to say at this time."
The mayor on Monday said no fire stations had been closed, and that response times were normal.
But nearly 2,300 city firefighters reportedly called out sick on Monday, which the city's fire chief was more than twice the usual number. He warned employees who lied about being sick could be disciplined.
"If you're not sick, I want to see you back at work."
Mayor de Blasio said approximately 12,000 civic employees have applied for medical or religious exemptions.
Vaccine mandates from both the U.S. federal government and local officials have faced pushback from public-sector unions.
Legal challenges in New York and elsewhere have so far been unsuccessful, with state and federal courts reluctant to overturn vaccine mandates.
The White House last month said the mandates are a proven success, reporting that nationwide vaccination rates climbed twenty percentage points after numerous mandates went into effect, while COVID case numbers and deaths are down.