FDNY union officials are bracing for “dozens” of fire companies to shutter and slower response times Monday as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city workers officially goes into effect, they said at an early morning press conference.
“This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for,” Uniformed Firefighters Association’s Andrew Ansbro told reporters at a 6 a.m. briefing outside Engine Co. 26 in Midtown.
“We’re not clear what the numbers are. We’re not entirely clear how many fire companies will be closed today. We’re expecting dozens. We’re hoping fire coverage isn’t impinged upon, but it’s very hard to say at this time.”
The union boss warned of grueling hours ahead for smoke eaters currently on duty — and slowed emergency responses.
“Every time any single company is out of service, the response time in that area is affected,” he explained. “If this company was out of service and one of you were to drop of a heart attack right now, if they were in service, they’d be here in a minute. If they were out of service, another firehouse in the area has to get here. Your response time to your heart attack is affected by this company being out of service. Our system is a web where we’re constantly picking up slack for other companies, based on their responses.”
Ansbro said he expected his firefighters to be “looking at an 80-hour workweek.”
As to specifically how many unvaccinated firefighters would be placed on unpaid leave Monday, Ansbro replied, “The truth is, we don’t know the answer.
“The department doesn’t share that number with us. But also, I’m quite certain the department does not know that number.”
The staffing uncertainty comes as 80 percent of FDNY’s workforce has received at least one shot, as well as 87 percent of medics, as of 6 p.m. Sunday, according to the latest data provided by City Hall.
Those figures represent significant jumps from the rates before Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the requirement on Oct. 20, forcing most government employees to get at least one jab of the COVID-19 vaccine or else be placed on unpaid leave come Monday.
The day before the mandate was issued, just 60 percent of all FDNY employees and 61 percent of EMS had gotten a shot, city data shows. The vaccination rate among firefighters now stands at 75 percent — up from 58 percent from 13 days ago.
Additionally, 84 percent of the NYPD has at least started their vaccine series as of Sunday evening — a 14-percent increase since de Blasio’s announcement — and 82 percent of sanitation workers are now vaxxed.
On Saturday, 26 fire companies across the five boroughs were shuttered due to worker shortages.
Ansbro on Sunday blamed reduced staffing levels on side effects from his members getting COVID-19 shots all “at once” — as he denied them staging an intentional sickout over the mandate.
“If you’re exhibiting symptoms of the shot — I had them after I had my shot — you really should not be putting on your bunker gear and fighting fires,” Ansbro said. “You know, a hard deadline like that — that’s what did this.”
De Blasio last week insisted city services would “move forward” without significant reductions and vowed not to push back the vaccination deadline.