NEW YORK, -- Mounting trash. Closed firehouses. There are fewer police officers and ambulances on the streets.
This is the scenario New York City is preparing for Monday, as the COVID-19 mandatelooms and thousands remain unwilling to receive the vaccines.
Police officers, firefighters and garbage collectors have until Friday, 5 p.m., to prove they have received at least one dose.
Workers who do not comply with the terms of the agreement will be placed on unpaid leave beginning Monday.
As firefighters rallied outside his residence on Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio remained firm in his mandate. Sanitation workers were seen skipping garbage pick-ups in protest. The largest police union in the city went to appeals court to stop the requirement for vaccines.
Pat Lynch, president and CEO of the Police Benevolent Association said that the deadline puts the city in a "real crisis" Andrew Ansbro of the Uniformed Firefighters Association warned that longer response times could "death sentence for some people."
De Blasio stated Thursday that the city has contingencies for maintaining adequate staffing, public safety, and overtime -- tools that he said are often used in times of difficult crisis.
Mayor referred to the slowdowns in sanitation as "unacceptable"; he stated that the department would shift to Sunday and 12-hour shifts to make sure trash doesn't accumulate.
De Blasio stated that his job was to keep people safe, including my employees and 8.8million people. "People aren't safe unless we defeat COVID." New Yorkers will die if we don't stop COVID."
The virus is spreading fast because of people who refuse to be vaccinated. New Yorkers, according to mandates supporters, have the right to not be infected if public servants refuse to give them shots.
According to city data, nearly one quarter of city employees who are subject to the mandate still have not received at least one dose of vaccines as of Thursday. This includes 26% of police officers, 29% firefighters, EMS workers, and 33% sanitation workers. The city jail guards still have a month to comply.
According to the fire department, it is prepared to close 20% of its fire departments and have 20% fewer ambulances on service. It also plans to change schedules, cancel vacations, and turn to outside EMS providers in order to meet staff shortages.
Ansbro stated that up to 40% could be forced to close firehouses.
Dermot Shea was the Police Commissioner. He had COVID-19 in Jan. His department sent reminders to workers whose records indicated that they hadn't received a shot. The NYPD will also remain open this weekend.
The NYPD reported that more than 700 officers were vaccinated in a single day on Thursday. They were trying to meet the mandate deadline and offered an incentive: 500 dollars for workers who receive a shot at a city-run vaccine site by Friday.
Shea stated in a Wednesday video message to officers that "On Monday, when the thing really starts to be enforced, we will check your vaccination status and if it's not, no pay and then you won't be able to work." I don't believe anyone wants that to happen. It's not something I want to see. It's not something I want. We need you out here."
Fire department officials hold virtual meetings with employees, explaining the mandate to them and begging them to get vaccinated.
On Wednesday, a Staten Island judge denied a request by a police union for a temporary restraining or on the mandate. However, she summoned city officials to her courtroom next month in order to explain why they shouldn't be reversed. The city stated that workers who were put on leave by the mandate will be paid back if they are found illegal.
Mike Salsedo (44), was one of hundreds of firefighters who protested Thursday at de Blasio’s residence, Gracie Mansion. After contracting the disease last year, Salsedo claimed that he believes he is naturally immune to COVID-19 and does not need to be vaccinated. This is contrary to consensus among public health professionals.
Salsedo stated, "I am a man of faith and I don’t believe that putting anything manmade into my body will be good."
Jackie-Michelle Martinez (another firefighter) said that the freedom to choose was "our God given right". She questioned why the city had abandoned its old policy which allowed workers to remain on the job even if they failed a COVID-19 test.
She asked, "If weekly testing is effective, why aren't you Mayor de Blasio eliminating it?"
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page which tracks police deaths, COVID-19 has been the leading cause for death among U.S. law enforcement officers. It has killed 498 officers since 2020, compared with 102 gun deaths.
De Blasio credited Thursday's impending deadline to move the needle on vaccinations in the city government. The number of people who have received at least one dose has increased from 71% to 76% in the past week.
The state mandated that all employees in hospitals and nursing homes be vaccinated. There was a rush to do so, which meant that there were few staffing problems.
De Blasio stated that "we expected that a lot more vaccinations would occur towards the end of the deadline." "We also know that many people make decisions once they realize they won't get paid. This is just human reality.