NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Fresh off imposing vaccine mandates on teachers and school employees, Mayor Bill de Blasio is now considering expanding the strict COVID-19 rules to include police officers, firefighters, correction officers and other city workers.
But, as CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported Wednesday, he can expect union pushback.
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Taps was played, wreaths were laid, the dead were saluted at a poignant service to mourn 10 members of the FDNY who lost their lives.
The ceremony came at a time when the mayor is looking at stricter vaccine mandates for firefighters, cops, EMTs, correction officers and other employees, and was even more wrenching because two of those honored died from COVID-19.
“We lost EMT Evelyn Ford,” de Blasio said.
And because the mayor doesn’t want to lose more city employees to COVID, and because he’s seeking to protect the public, he is now looking to expand the mandate that forced educators to get shots or lose their jobs.
“Now we’re going to turn our attention to all the other pieces of the puzzle. So, that’s what we’re talking about over the coming days and stay tuned for updates,” de Blasio said.
The mayor can expect union pushback, with police union president Pat Lynch saying, “In the PBA’s view, the COVID-19 vaccine is a medical decision that members must make in consultation with their own health care providers. We will continue to protect the rights of members who are not vaccinated.”
Bobby Eustace, vice president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, told CBS2’s Cory James a similar directive could impact a department that is 90% operational.
“We believe there should be a choice,” Eustace said. “That would be devastating to public safety. If you were to take away 40% of our workforce because they weren’t vaccinated, I can guarantee you public safety would be in jeopardy because a lot of the men and women on the front lines would be gone and your safety would be in jeopardy.”
City Council Health Committee Chair Mark Levine said the mayor is on the right track.
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“It’s time. We have proven that this works. Now is time to take this to every agency, every sector of the workforce which is high risk. We’re not done with COVID. We’re making progress. Let’s beat this thing back,” Levine said.
The mayor is also getting support from those who lost loved ones to COVID, including Ford’s son, Adrien Tellado.
“I feel, in terms of a mandate, I feel it should be in everyone’s best interest. I do feel like the vaccine works,” Tellado said.
So does the brother of Firefighter Joseph Ferrugia, who also died from the disease.
“I think when your in the kind of job where you’re dealing with the public all the time, interacting with strangers all the time, I think its incumbent upon yourself and your employer to make sure that you’re safe,” Thomas Ferrugia said.
According to city data, the NYPD vaccination rate is 68%, the FDNY is 59%, and the Department of Correction is 49%.
“I would be supportive of a vaccine mandate. I’ve said that from day one I think that the science, the health, the emergency situation that were in, it makes sense,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said.
“We’ve lost 16 people in the department. We’re recognizing two of them today. Anything we can do to save lives in this department, I’m for,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.
If the mayor does impose a new vaccine mandate, it’s unclear what the penalty will be for those who refuse to get the shot and if any other city workers will lose their jobs.
Levine said the vaccine mandate should also include people who work in high-risk settings like child care and those who work with the homeless.
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CBS2’s Cory James contributed to this report.