This is the scenario New York City is preparing for Monday, as the COVID-19 mandatelooms and thousands remain unwilling to receive the vaccines.
Police officers, firefighters and garbage collectors were given Friday at 5 p.m. to prove they had received at least one dose.
Workers who do not comply with the terms of the agreement will be placed on unpaid leave beginning Monday.
Mayor Bill de Blasio remained firm on the mandate, even though tempers flared Friday when six firefighters were suspended for taking a firetruck to a legislator's office and threats to his staff about the vaccine mandate.
After firefighters and other workers protested outside de Blasio’s official residence on Thursday, sanitation workers were seen skipping garbage pick-ups in protest. The largest police union in the city went to appeals court to stop the requirement for vaccines.
Pat Lynch, president and CEO of the Police Benevolent Association said that the deadline puts the city in a "real crisis" Andrew Ansbro of the Uniformed Firefighters Association warned that longer response times could "death sentence for some people."
De Blasio stated Thursday that the city has contingencies for maintaining adequate staffing, public safety, and overtime -- tools that he said are often used in times of difficult crisis.
Mayor referred to the slowdowns in sanitation as "unacceptable". He stated that the department would move to 12-hour work hours and start working Sunday shifts to make sure trash doesn't accumulate.
De Blasio stated that his job was to keep people safe, including my employees and 8.8million people. "People aren't safe unless we defeat COVID." New Yorkers will die if we don't stop COVID."
The virus is spreading fast because of people who refuse to be vaccinated. New Yorkers, according to mandates supporters, have the right to not be infected if public servants refuse to give them shots.
Mandates also have support from the courts, such as Friday's decision by a federal appeals panel to uphold New York's mandate for vaccines for health care workers.
According to city data, nearly one-fifth city employees who are subject to the city mandate have yet to get at least one dose of vaccines. This includes 21% of police officers, 29% firefighters, EMS workers, and 33% sanitation workers. The city jail guards still have a month to comply.
At 8 p.m. on Thursday, 33.400 city workers were still unvaccinated. The city promised to provide updated vaccine rates Saturday.
According to the fire department, it is prepared to close 20% of its fire departments and have 20% fewer ambulances on service. It also plans to change schedules, cancel vacations, and turn to outside EMS providers in order to meet staffing shortages.
"The department must deal with the unfortunate fact, that a portion our workforce has refused comply with a vaccination mandate for all city employees," Daniel Nigro, Fire Commissioner, said.
Dermot Shea, the Police Commissioner, was diagnosed with COVID-19 in January. He said that his department was reminding workers whose records showed they had not received a shot. The NYPD's vaccination sites will be open throughout the weekend. Shea stated that thousands of officers who have applied for religious and medical exemptions will be allowed work while their cases are being reviewed.
The NYPD reported that nearly 1,000 officers received vaccinations on Friday. They were quick to comply with the mandate. There was also an incentive: 500 dollars for workers who receive a shot before Friday.
Shea stated in a Wednesday video message to officers that "on Monday, when this thing really begins being enforced," they would check your vaccination status. If you aren't vaccinated, you will not be paid and you will not be able to work." I don't believe anyone wants that to happen. It's not something I want to see. It's not something I want. We need you out here."
Fire department officials hold virtual meetings with employees, urging them to get vaccinated.
On Wednesday, a Staten Island judge denied a request by a police union for a temporary stop to the mandate. However, she summoned city officials into her courtroom next year to explain why they shouldn't be reversed. The city stated that workers who were put on leave by the mandate will be paid back if it is found illegal.
Mike Salsedo (44), was one of hundreds of firefighters who protested Thursday at de Blasio’s residence, Gracie Mansion. After contracting the disease last year, Salsedo claimed that he believes he is naturally immune to COVID-19 and does not need to be vaccinated. This is contrary to consensus among public health professionals.
Salsedo stated, "I am a man of faith and I don’t believe that putting anything manmade into my body will be good."
Jackie-Michelle Martinez (another firefighter) said that the freedom to choose was "our God given right". She questioned why the city had abandoned its old policy which allowed workers to remain on the job even if they failed a COVID-19 test.
She asked, "If weekly testing is effective, why aren't you Mayor de Blasio eliminating it?"
According to the Officer Down Memorial Page which tracks police deaths, COVID-19 has been the leading cause for death among U.S. law enforcement officers. It has killed 498 officers since 2020, compared with 102 gun deaths.
De Blasio credited Thursday's impending deadline to move the needle on vaccinations in the city government. The number of people who have received at least one dose has increased from 71% to 79% in the past week.
A few facilities faced staffing problems when the state mandated that all employees in hospitals and nursing homes be vaccinated.
De Blasio stated that "we expected that a lot more vaccinations would occur towards the end of the deadline." "We also know that many people make decisions once they realize they won't get paid. This is just human reality.