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Hundreds of New York City firefighters took sick leave on Friday instead of complying with Mayor Bill de Blasio's deadline for all city workers to be vaccinated or be placed on unpaid leave - causing some firehouses to shut their doors because of staff shortages.
'The excessive sick leave ... because of their anger at the vaccine mandate for all city employees is unacceptable,' said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro, who oversees a department where more than a quarter of its workers have not had one COVID vaccine shot.
Nigro said their decision to take sick leave could 'endanger the lives' of city residents called, adding it's 'contrary to their oaths to serve'.
All municipal workers were ordered to show proof of at least one dose of the vaccine by 5pm Friday or risk being placed on unpaid leave come Monday.
The FDNY has not closed any firehouses for good but it was not immediately clear which stations were forced to close.
'Despite these actions by some, the department will continue to respond to all calls for help that come our way,' Nigro said.
Hundreds of New York City's firefighters have protested Mayor Bill de Blasio's vaccine mandate, which officially took effect on Friday, with a sneaky loophole - paid sick leave
Even after a surge in vaccines before the mandate's deadline on Friday 10,951 firefighters; about 36,000 cops; and 10,000 emergency responders - around 4,300 of whom are employed by the fire department - have yet to get jabbed
De Blasio's mandate, which was announced on October 20, said that by 5pm on Friday all municipal workers were ordered to show proof of at least one dose of the vaccine or risk being placed on unpaid leave come Monday
He said FDNY workers were would be allowed to get the shot on Saturday and Sunday and wouldn't be put on unpaid leave if they showed up to work with proof of inoculation on Monday.
But on Friday a group of fix firefighters of Ladder 113 in Brooklyn were on duty when they drove a fire truck to State Senator Zellnor Myrie's office to tell his staffers they would 'have blood on their hands' if they continued to push the mandate, according to the New York Post.
Nigro said of what happened at the senator's office: '(They) should only be concerned with responding to emergencies and helping New Yorkers and not harassing an elected official and his staff.'
Despite the incident there was a surge in vaccination rates among Manhattan's public employees on Friday in a last-ditch effort to stay on payroll.
According to the Post, the FDNY saw firefighters' vaccination rate rise from 67 percent Friday morning to 72 percent by the end of the day.
The Emergency Medical Service (EMS) - which is part of the FDNY - saw a spike to 84 percent - up from 77 percent
Vaccination rates among NYPD's 55,000-strong police force rose from 80 to 84 percent.
The Department of Sanitation also saw a jump in vaccination rate, from 67 percent to 76, according to the Post.
These figures mean that 10,951 firefighters; about 36,000 cops; and 10,000 emergency responders - around 4,300 of whom are employed by the fire department - have yet to get jabbed.
Close to a quarter of the city's 7,200 uniformed sanitation workers also remain unvaccinated.
Firefighters rallied outside Mayor Bill de Blasio's residence Gracie Mansion on Thursday to protest his Covid-19 vaccine mandate for all city workers
NYPD and FDNY union members were seen holding placards that read: 'FDNY against tyranny (and) if we lose medical choice we lose all freedom'
In anti-vaccine protests earlier this week off-duty cops held the Thin Blue Line flag representative of police officers and the Blue Lives Matter movement
Unvaccinated city employees who got their first and second doses after the mandate was announced on October 20 were offered a $500 bonus as incentive to get their shots.
But De Blasio is still fearing a massive staff-shortage that could threaten public safety come next week and he took an opportunity during the NYPD's annual Medal Day ceremony to plead with unvaccinated cops to get their long-awaited vaccines.
The mayor said: 'Today, we honored people who made us safer. By getting vaccinated we’re making the city safer.'
After the ceremony, he told reporters outside of the Police Academy in Queens, according to the Daily News: 'My message to all city employees who are not yet vaccinated is: We care about you. We care about your health and your families’ health.
'We care about the health of the people we serve and come in contact with every day.'
Instead of inspiring people to get their jabs, De Blasio's edict has triggered furious protests and warnings that up to 40 percent of firehouses could close, with up to 150 fewer ambulances a day in service.
The two-month cycle theory has also been seen in the US during every surge including the summer 2020 wave and the winter 2020-21 wave
'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,' Nigro said earlier in the week.
'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.'
Mike Salsedo, 44, was among hundreds of firefighters protesting Thursday outside De Blasio's official residence Gracie Mansion. He said he believes he has natural immunity to Covid-19 after having the disease last year and doesn't need to be vaccinated - a stance that's contrary to the consensus among public health experts.
'I'm a man of faith, and I don't believe that putting something manmade into my body is good,' Salsedo said.
Another firefighter, Jackie-Michelle Martinez, said the ability to choose was 'our God-given right' as she questioned the city's decision to move away from its previous policy, which allowed workers to stay on the job if they had a negative Covid-19 test.
'If the weekly testing is working, why are you, Mayor de Blasio, eliminating it?' she asked.
Meanwhile, nationwide Covid-related infections and fatalities in the US have dropped to the lowest levels recorded since April 2021.
About 191million Americans have been fully vaccinated - nearly 58 percent of the population
On September 1 America was averaging 49.9 cases per 100,000 but as of Wednesday, this figure has dropped to 21.2 cases per 100,000.
These declines seem to follow a familiar two-month cycle since the pandemic began in early 2020 with cases and deaths increasing for about two months before declining, according to David Leonhardt of The New York Times.
Early explanations - such as the virus being seasonal like the flu or compliance of mask wearing and social distancing increasing and decreasing - have not held up.
However, more logical explanations include that as people have contracted Covid-19 over the last two months, the virus is (slowly) running out of people to infect.
'Since the pandemic began, Covid has often followed a regular - if mysterious - cycle. In one country after another, the number of new cases has often surged for roughly two months before starting to fall,' Leonhardt wrote.
'The Delta variant, despite its intense contagiousness, has followed this pattern.'
This means a variant may only need eight weeks to spread throughout a community before it begins to recede.