A total of 26 New York firehouses have been forced to close after firefighters refused to get vaccinated ahead of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Monday deadline – and a seven-year-old boy died the following day as departments saw major staff shortages.
The Uniformed Firefighters Association revealed a list of FDNY stations that ‘have close due to no manpower’ and it includes six in Manhattan, nine in Brooklyn, three in Queens, four in the Bronx and four in Staten Island.
On Friday FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro warned that the effects of the closures could be catastrophic and ‘endanger the lives’ of city residents.
A day later Robert Resto, 7, was killed and his 54-year-old grandmother were seriously hurt after a deadly blaze engulfed their Washington Heights home around 1.30am Saturday.
Although an FDNY spokesman told the FDNY that the firefighters’ response time was not impacted by the 10,951 firefighters who have yet to get vaccinated, just yesterday firefighters were reportedly calling out sick to avoid unpaid leave.
‘Is there a sickout?’ Not to my knowledge no,’ Andrew Ansbro of the Uniformed Firefighters Association said.
The grandmother was rushed to Jacobi Medical Center in serious condition.
Neighbors remembered the young boy as ‘sweet (and) joyful,’ adding that he was ‘always reading, holding the door, smiling,’ according to the New York Post.
FDNY officials said the apartment started in the back of the house’s basement – located at 660 West 178th Street – and spread to the first floor.
Three other people inside the house – including one firefighter and the boy’s father, according to a GoFundMe page – also suffered minor injuries and were taken to New York Presbyterian-Columbia Hospital.
All municipal workers have been ordered to show proof of at least one dose of the vaccine by 5pm Friday or risk being placed on unpaid leave come Monday.
And despite 26 stations being shuddered today, the FDNY has said it is not closing any firehouses for good.
In protest of the mandate hundreds of New York City firefighters took sick leave on Friday instead of complying with De Blasio’s deadline for all city workers to be vaccinated or be placed on unpaid leave.
‘The excessive sick leave … because of their anger at the vaccine mandate for all city employees is unacceptable,’ said Nigro, who oversees a department where more than a quarter of its workers have not had one Covid vaccine shot.
Nigro added that the loophole many took to the mandate deadline is ‘contrary to their oaths to serve’.
The same day six firefighters of Ladder 113 in Brooklyn were on duty when they drove a fire truck to State Senator Zellnor Myrie’s office to tell his staffers they would ‘have blood on their hands’ if they continued to push the mandate.
Nigro said of what happened at the senator’s office: ‘(They) should only be concerned with responding to emergencies and helping New Yorkers and not harassing an elected official and his staff.’
Despite the incident there was a surge in vaccination rates among Manhattan’s public employees on Friday in a last-ditch effort to stay on payroll.
According to the Post, the FDNY saw firefighters’ vaccination rate rise from 67 percent Friday morning to 72 percent by the end of the day.
The Emergency Medical Service (EMS) – which is part of the FDNY – saw a spike to 84 percent – up from 77 percent
Vaccination rates among NYPD’s 55,000-strong police force rose from 80 to 84 percent.
The Department of Sanitation also saw a jump in vaccination rate, from 67 percent to 76, according to the Post.
These figures mean that 10,951 firefighters; about 36,000 cops; and 10,000 emergency responders – around 4,300 of whom are employed by the fire department – have yet to get jabbed.
Close to a quarter of the city’s 7,200 uniformed sanitation workers also remain unvaccinated.
But De Blasio announced in a tweet on Saturday that in the 24 hours since the deadline, 2,300 more workers got the shot.
Ansbro also noted that ‘the department is allowing people to have a couple days off after they get the vaccination,’ according to WABC.
Unvaccinated city employees who got their first and second doses after the mandate was announced on October 20 were offered a $500 bonus as incentive to get their shots.
But De Blasio is still fearing a massive staff-shortage that could threaten public safety come next week and he took an opportunity during the NYPD’s annual Medal Day ceremony to plead with unvaccinated cops to get their long-awaited vaccines.
The mayor said: ‘Today, we honored people who made us safer. By getting vaccinated we’re making the city safer.’
After the ceremony, he told reporters outside of the Police Academy in Queens, according to the Daily News: ‘My message to all city employees who are not yet vaccinated is: We care about you. We care about your health and your families’ health.
‘We care about the health of the people we serve and come in contact with every day.
Instead of inspiring people to get their jabs, De Blasio’s edict has triggered furious protests and warnings that up to 40 percent of firehouses could close, with up to 150 fewer ambulances a day in service.
‘The department must manage the unfortunate fact that a portion of our workforce has refused to comply with a vaccine mandate for all city employees,’ Nigro said earlier in the week.
‘We will use all means at our disposal, including mandatory overtime, mutual aid from other EMS providers, and significant changes to the schedules of our members. We will ensure the continuity of operations and safety of all those we have sworn oaths to serve.’
Mike Salsedo, 44, was among hundreds of firefighters protesting Thursday outside De Blasio’s official residence Gracie Mansion. He said he believes he has natural immunity to Covid-19 after having the disease last year and doesn’t need to be vaccinated – a stance that’s contrary to the consensus among public health experts.
‘I’m a man of faith, and I don’t believe that putting something manmade into my body is good,’ Salsedo said.
Another firefighter, Jackie-Michelle Martinez, said the ability to choose was ‘our God-given right’ as she questioned the city’s decision to move away from its previous policy, which allowed workers to stay on the job if they had a negative Covid-19 test.
‘If the weekly testing is working, why are you, Mayor de Blasio, eliminating it?’ she asked.
Meanwhile, nationwide Covid-related infections and fatalities in the US have dropped to the lowest levels recorded since April 2021.
About 191million Americans have been fully vaccinated – nearly 58 percent of the population
On September 1 America was averaging 49.9 cases per 100,000 but as of Wednesday, this figure has dropped to 21.2 cases per 100,000.
These declines seem to follow a familiar two-month cycle since the pandemic began in early 2020 with cases and deaths increasing for about two months before declining, according to David Leonhardt of The New York Times.
Early explanations – such as the virus being seasonal like the flu or compliance of mask wearing and social distancing increasing and decreasing – have not held up.
However, more logical explanations include that as people have contracted Covid-19 over the last two months, the virus is (slowly) running out of people to infect.
‘Since the pandemic began, Covid has often followed a regular – if mysterious – cycle. In one country after another, the number of new cases has often surged for roughly two months before starting to fall,’ Leonhardt wrote.
‘The Delta variant, despite its intense contagiousness, has followed this pattern.’
This means a variant may only need eight weeks to spread throughout a community before it begins to recede.