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New York Fire Department members protest before Covid-19 vaccine deadline

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On Thursday, members of the FDNY opposed the mandate crowded into the Gracie mansion, the mayor’s official residence, to demonstrate, with some attendees carrying signs saying, “Essential workers are not heroes of one. use (sic) “,” My body, my choice “. , “and” #NaturalImmunity “.

“In 21 years, we’ve been through the Trade Center, the hurricanes, the Covid, and just to get out and put that mandate in such a short period of time, it’s not okay,” Julian Eyre, who told CNN that is choose to retire after 21 years with the fire department instead of getting vaccinated.

“I’ve been working with Covid for a year and a half, I haven’t gotten sick, I haven’t tested positive. I’ve been healthy all along. I don’t feel like I need the vaccine to survive,” Eyre said, adding that he is concerned about the health risks arising from the vaccine.

A protester at Thursday’s rally holds a sign that says

As of Thursday, the FDNY-wide vaccination rate, which includes firefighters, emergency medical services and civilian employees, was 71%, up from 65% on Wednesday, according to FDNY spokeswoman Amanda Farinacci. Among firefighters, that figure was 65 percent, Farinacci said, while 80 percent of EMS workers were vaccinated and 83 percent of civilian employees.

As of Wednesday, the FDNY was preparing for a 20% reduction in service as of Monday, a source familiar with the current situation told CNN. And up to a fifth of the city’s fire companies could be shut down as a result of unvaccinated personnel, the source told CNN, adding that one-fifth of the department’s ambulances may be out of service due to same reason.

In an effort to mitigate planned staffing issues, the department plans to cancel vacations and enact mandatory overtime. The city’s medical services will also seek support by enacting mutual aid with private hospitals and voluntary ambulance services, according to the source.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday that emergency services will continue to operate despite the expected lack of staff, although he said he expected a rapid increase in vaccines as the deadline approached, similar to what took place last month when a vaccination mandate for teachers and workers came into force. sanitary ware.

New York City police and fire departments are struggling to cover staff shortages when the vaccine mandate goes into effect

The city has contingency plans to use administrative staff and mandatory overtime to fill staff gaps, Blasio said.

The mayor reiterated that his administration’s vaccination mandate was aimed at keeping New Yorkers safe, and told reporters, “Until we defeat Covid, people are not safe. If we don’t stop Covid, New Yorkers will die. “.

Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said in a statement to CNN that the FDNY will continue to provide the necessary services, but lamented the “unfortunate fact that part of our staff has refused to comply” with the mandate.

“We will use all means at our disposal, including mandatory overtime, mutual assistance from other EMS providers and significant changes in our members’ schedules, ”the commissioner said. “We will ensure the continuity of operations and the safety of all those to whom we have sworn.”

Unions from the fire and police departments have spoken out against the mandate, with Uniformed Firefighters Association President Jim McCarthy describing a requirement for firefighters to make a decision on the vaccine on Friday. as the “inconceivable.”

CNN’s Brynn Gingras, Carolyn Sung, Evan Simko-Bednarski and Taylor Romine contributed to this report.

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