The head of the Big Apple’s firefighters’ union doubled down Sunday that flu-like symptoms from the city-mandated COVID-19 vaccine — and not a staged sick-out — has kept smoke eaters off the job, shutting down more than a dozen fire companies over the weekend.
“You have them all taking it at once,” United Firefighters Association boss Andrew Ansbro said of the vaccine. “The department should have spread this out.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio set a Monday morning deadline for all government workers to receive at least one jab against the deadly virus before they can be allowed back on the job — which has prompted pushback from some workers.
Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro stoked flames Friday when he railed against “the excessive sick leave” by firefighters “because of their anger at the vaccine mandate.”
Nigro called the alleged ruse “unacceptable” and said that, “contrary to their oaths,” they could “endanger the lives of New Yorkers.”
But Ansbro placed the blame on the shot itself — not de Blasio’s order.
“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,” he said. “You know, a hard deadline like that — that’s what did this.”
FDNY staff shortages shut down 26 fire companies throughout the five boroughs on Saturday, with sources saying 20 remained out of commission on Sunday.
With the Monday morning vaccine mandate looming, city statistics show that more than 24,000 city workers remain unvaccinated and could be sent home from work.
De Blasio had offered a carrot — in the form of a $500 bonus for employees who got inoculated — but that incentive expired at 5 p.m. Friday.
Thousands of unvaccinated NYPD employees will be allowed to continue to remain on the job, but only if they applied for medical or religious exemptions which will be reviewed by the NYPD Equal Employment Opportunity Division.
Last week, a state appellate court shot down the PBA’s bid to have de Blasio’s mandate overturned — allowing the measure to move forward.
Officials at City Hall reported a 14-percent jump in the number of city workers who received at least one shot since the mandate was announced on Oct. 20.
But workforce shortages have nonetheless impacted city services.
On Friday, Ladder Co. 45 in Washington Heights had to respond to a building fire on West 186th Street without Engine Co. 93, which was undermanned and out of service.
Fire officials confirmed that ladder company firefighters had to run into the burning building to save two people — before any water was sprayed on the flames because the nearest backup engine company was 11 minutes away, fire officials confirmed.
“They’re lucky to be alive,” one emergency response expert said of the firefighters.
In addition to shutting down FDNY companies, city sanitation workers were pulling overtime shifts Sunday to catch up on the mounting trash on Big Apple streets — the result of a rule-book slowdown last week, sources said.
“To help meet service needs, sanitation workers are working 12-hour shifts and will be working Sundays as needed, including today to continue our work picking up trash and recycling,” Sanitation spokeswoman Belinda Mager confirmed in an email.
Meanwhile, Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa took aim at City Hall, saying the vaccine mandate is putting city workers in a tight spot.
“I met many firefighters at their station houses and police officers at their precincts who know that by 9 [a.m.] tomorrow, if they have not gotten one shot, they will be fired,” Sliwa said outside Engine 54 in Hell’s Kitchen Sunday afternoon. “De Blasio says it’s a furlough. Let’s face it. They’re fired.”
“You’ve got to scratch your head and say, with all the garbage in the streets, with rats who come out and dance the Tarantella in the middle of the day,” he said.
The Guardian Angels founder said weekly COVID tests for first-responders and city workers had been a workable alternative to forced vaccinations.
Additional reporting by Susan Edelman