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Better late than never? NYC mayor announces last-minute vaccine mandate for ALL city workers

Better late than never? NYC mayor announces last-minute vaccine mandate for ALL city workers
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has warned city employees they have until the start of next month to begin getting vaccinated. A previous rule had allowed for weekly testing on the employee’s dime for those reluctant to get the jab.

All city workers, including cops and firefighters, are required to get their first jab by 5pm on October 29, the mayor announced on Wednesday during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Anyone who hasn’t received at least their first shot by November 1 will be placed on unpaid leave until they submit to the needle.

We need to reassure all New Yorkers that, if you’re working with a public employee, they’re vaccinated, everyone is going to be safe,” de Blasio explained. 

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The move comes amid a growing number of “breakthrough” infections among high-profile vaccine recipients; the current crop includes Department of Homeland Security director Alejandro Mayorkas, while former secretary of state Colin Powell recently died of Covid-19-related complications, despite being vaccinated. 

Adding a carrot to the penalizing stick of unpaid leave, de Blasio announced those municipal employees who took the initiative and got their first shot within the next week would receive a $500 bonus. About 83% of the city’s 300,000 employees are currently vaccinated, though police officers and firefighters are less likely to have received the jab. Nationwide, 79% of adults have reportedly received a vaccine and, of those affected by de Blasio’s new mandate, 71% have already had at least one shot.

The city’s vaccination mandate previously only applied to Department of Education staff and city healthcare workers, with the unvaccinated subject to weekly testing and masking requirements since August. Corrections officers have an extra month to get their shot due to the ongoing staffing issues at the city’s notorious Rikers Island jail, with a deadline of December 1. 

Some NYC police unions have vowed to fight the mandate, arguing that receiving the shot is a personal medical decision that cannot be forced on the individual. Similar struggles are unfolding in Massachusetts and Washington state, where scores of state troopers have quit rather than submit to the jab; police in the city of Chicago, one of the most dangerous cities in the US, have also made a show of defiance. 

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Last week, President Joe Biden’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration reportedly delivered a draft of its rule aimed at forcing all businesses with 100 or more employees to require those workers be vaccinated, leading dozens of state attorneys general, unions, and business owners to brace for lawsuits. Violators will be threatened with massive fines, though some have questioned how a few hundred agency employees can be expected to police hundreds of thousands of businesses nationwide.

Issues with the mandate range from potential illegality – equal opportunity employment laws prevent discriminating in hiring and firing based on medical condition or disability – to religious concerns.

Ordinary New Yorkers have also taken to the streets by the thousands to protest de Blasio's citywide “vaccine passport,” which is required to enter restaurants and bars as well as concerts and other entertainment venues.

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