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Mayor De Blasio Doubles Down On Municipal Workers Vaccine Mandate: 'We Have Contingency Plans In Place'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Municipal workers have a week to get the COVID-19 vaccine or risk being put on unpaid leave.

The new mandate comes with pushback and staffing concerns across city agencies.

Get the vaccine to get paid -- that's the message to police, fire, EMS, and all other city workers, a demand Mayor Bill de Blasio doubled down on Thursday morning, CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis reported.

"We're saying get vaccinated or you go on leave without pay," de Blasio said.

The city says 71% of those affected by this mandate already got at least one dose. One fully vaccinated city employee, who asked that we not identify her, is urging others to follow suit and get the shot.

"You work for the city. You work with people. Get vaccinated," the employee said, adding when asked about the initiative, "If you're gonna give them $500, give everybody $500 that got vaccinated."


The $500 incentive for the 46,000 unvaccinated city workers could cost the city $23 million. Some still refuse to get a shot.

"There's a group out there in every single city agency that just honestly feels, you know what? I don't want to put that in my body," said Harry Nespoli, head of both the sanitation union and Municipal Labor Council.

With only half of EMS workers and 60% of firefighters vaccinated, staff shortages are a major concern.

"We'll definitely be closing fire houses," said Andrew Ansbro, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association.

"Thousands will walk off from EMS," added Oren Barzilary, head of Local 2507, which represents EMTs and paramedics.

"We have contingency plans in place using overtime and using other capacity to make sure we can keep the service going," de Blasio said, adding he feels most will choose to get vaccinated.

Unions plan to fight back in court. In a statement, the Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said, in part, "We will proceed with legal action to protect our members' rights."

Employment attorney Helen Rella said courts will likely uphold the mandate.

"This a public safety issue and because he mayor is speaking on behalf of the city, which is effectively the employer," Rella said.


This follows a vaccine requirement for Department of Education staff, which the mayor says worked. The DOE now has a 96% vaccination rate.

Still, people remain split.

"I think its kind of ridiculous. The more you push, the more you get pushback, so give people a choice," said Lloyd Hulse, who works in the city.

"It's not a political issue. It's a safety issue and do it," added Manhattan resident Sally Robbins.

All city workers have until Oct. 29 to get their first shot, except for some correction officers who have until December due to the ongoing staffing issue. Testing will no longer be an option.

The new mandate applies to roughly 160,000 workers who haven't already been required to get the shot.

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