NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- As many as 3,000 New York City public employees are expected to be fired Friday for failing to obey the COVID vaccine mandate.
It was put in place by Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Mayor Eric Adams says he's ready to enforce it.
Adams says as far as he's concerned, he's not firing anyone, they're in essence quitting by refusing to comply.
"We have to be very clear -- people must be vaccinated if they are New York City employees. Everyone understood that," Adams said.
Termination notices have been mailed and take effect Friday, targeting city workers who have been on leave without pay for declining to obey the city's vaccine mandate.
"We don't want to terminate anyone. We want people to be vaccinated and employed so that our economy continues to open," Adams said.
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City Hall is accentuating the positive, saying more than 95% of workers have complied, getting at least one dose of the vaccine as required under an October order from the health commissioner.
As the Feb. 11 deadline approached, the mayor's office said many of the 3,000 workers at risk of termination submitted last-minute proof of vaccination.
Holdouts are angry, however. Hundreds protested in Lower Manhattan on Monday.
"I'm fully vaccinated, but I don't want to be segregated from the unvaccinated," city worker John Mooney said.
"There's 25 firefighters that are set to be fired on Friday," said Paul Schweit, an unvaccinated firefighter. "We're asking for the freedom to choose."
A number of them say they have antibodies after recovering from COVID and are willing to submit to regular COVID testing.
"If you're fired for standing up for something that you believe in, it's just wrong. It's un-American," Schweit said.
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Some New Yorkers say vaccine-reluctant workers should stand their ground.
"If it takes you losing a job, you might have to take that risk," Bronx resident Horace Hall said.
Thirteen thousand city workers have applied for a reasonable exemption from the mandate, citing health or religious concerns. About half of those requests have been processed -- 2,100 approved, 4,900 denied.
CBS2's Tony Aiello asked New Yorkers if they were surprised the city was following through on their threat to fire those who didn't comply.
"I mean, in a vacuum, you'd hope that when the city says they'll do things, that they do it, so I'm not surprised that they're following through with doing it," Brooklyn resident Ari Marder said.
Because the workers at risk of being fired haven't been working since they are on leave without pay, City Hall doesn't expect any impact on delivery of city services.
The exact number to be fired is still unknown but will be far less than 1% of the total workforce.
Editor's note: This story was first published Feb. 10.
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