NEW YORK — With a vaccine mandate for FDNY members days away from kicking in, officials warned fire companies across New York City could close and ambulances could be taken off streets because of worker shortages.
Many firefighters and emergency medical workers are still unvaccinated and have no plans of getting the COVID jab. An estimated 20 percent of fire units could close, officials said. New Yorkers could see around 20 percent fewer ambulances on the road.
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the agency has plans in place to mitigate staffing issues.
“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,” he said. “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.”
As of Oct. 20, Uniformed Firefighters Association President Andrew Andsbro said around 3,500 firefighters were unvaccinated. Union officials said they believe some level of herd immunity has been achieved within the FDNY, due to a high percentage of firefighters and paramedics having been diagnosed at one point with COVID-19.
A New York judge on Wednesday refused to pause a vaccine mandate set to take effect Friday for the city’s municipal workforce, denying a police union’s request for a temporarily restraining order.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said there’s a “very real possibility” of an NYPD officer shortage once New York City’s new vaccine mandate for city workers takes effect. He said the department is planning for potential contingencies, such as overtime and double shifts, should hundreds or thousands of officers go on unpaid leave due to the mandate.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.