The Covid vaccination rate for city firefighters has increased since just before the mayor’s mandate kicked in on Monday at midnight.
But unvaccinated firefighters still were being turned away when they reported to work as of Wednesday as their union exchanged sharp comments with Mayor de Blasio and department leadership.
“Our city workforce is now at 92 percent vaccinated,” de Blasio said in his Tuesday press conference, according to a transcript provided by his office. “We’ve seen continued movement in the right direction. In the last 24 hours, 2,000 more city workers who had been unvaccinated came forward, got vaccinated, did the right thing, did the right thing for all New Yorkers, as well as for everyone they work with, everyone they serve.”
As of Tuesday, the FDNY said its overall vaccination rate was 82 percent, including 78 percent for firefighters, 89 percent for EMTs and 91 percent for civilian personnel.
Andrew Ansbro, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, had said last Thursday that about 55 percent of his members were vaccinated.
De Blasio on Tuesday noted the increase for all city workers.
“It’s proof that the vaccine mandates work and this is how we move the city forward,” he said. “This is the key to our recovery — vaccination.”
Ansbro has said his members want to be back at their posts as they have been since the start of the pandemic. He said the union is not anti-vaccine, only anti-mandate. He has directed his unvaccinated members to show up for work and document when they are turned away.
The union has posted photos of firefighters who have been turned away in front of their firehouses.
Ansbro has said nine days — the time between the end of the FDNY’s testing system and the beginning of the mandate — was not enough time.
The FDNY said the number of companies that might be out of service can vary from shift to shift — it was between 5 and 18 on Tuesday — and that the department moves resources into a given firehouse or response area to ensure coverage for emergencies. A given company would not be out of service for 24 hours. Firehouses usually host two different companies.
The department also said response times have not gone up.
“The department has not closed any firehouses,” Commissioner Daniel Nigro said in an emailed statement. “Irresponsible, bogus sick leave by some of our members is creating a danger for New Yorkers and their fellow Firefighters. They need to return to work or risk the consequences of their actions.”
Firefighters are not being paid while legal proceedings wend their way through the courts.
Nigro on Monday called the nine-day complaint misleading during de Blasio’s press conference, saying the department has shots available for 10 months. He said the normal 200 people coming into the department medical office each day has averaged 700 since the mandate was announced.
“There are understaffed units and that under-staffing could end immediately if members stopped going sick when they weren’t sick,” Nigro said.
Ansbro, on the union’s Twitter page, slammed Nigro’s assertion.
“By the commissioner’s own admission, the majority of members on sick leave are unvaccinated,” Ansbro wrote. “They would not be working because they were sent home by @NYCMayor de Blasio’s dangerous mandate. You can’t have it both ways. This crisis is clearly on the Mayor.” He later tweeted that positivity rates for Covid are far below other medical maladies:
“Current data doesn’t support a mandate that tramps on the rights of FDNY’s bravest who served through the pandemic.”
In an interview with Fox News, Ansbro said the city is not taking into account the number of firefighters hurt in routine performance of their duties. He said testing numbers do not warrant the mayor’s order.
Ansbro said, for example, that prior to the mandate the number of firefighters out on sick leave for job-related reasons outnumbered those out for Covid-related reasons by a ratio of 16 to one.