November 29, 2021

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New York City to Require Covid-19 Vaccinations for All Public Employees – The Wall Street Journal

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New York City is requiring that all of its municipal workforce get vaccinated against Covid-19, eliminating the option for testing and joining a group of state and local governments with similar mandates.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an order Wednesday that means some 46,000 city workers need to get their first shot by Oct. 29 or potentially lose their jobs. The new rule covers 160,500 workers, of whom about 71% are partially or fully vaccinated, according to official estimates. The city said 70% of police and 60% of fire department personnel have received at least one shot.

Noncompliant employees will be placed on unpaid leave and City Hall officials plan to negotiate in the coming days with labor unions about procedures that would follow. The city already requires vaccines for educational and public healthcare workers. Among the 167,000 employees of the city’s school system, 96% have complied.

New York City’s roughly 8,000 correction officers will face a later deadline of Dec. 1. The city has been struggling to maintain staffing levels at its Rikers Island jail complex.

“City workers have been a daily inspiration,” Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Now is the time for them to show their city the path out of this pandemic once and for all.”

Some states and local governments are pushing vaccine mandates for public workers to boost inoculation levels. Others, including Texas, have passed bans on such requirements.

A firefighter in Los Angeles getting a Covid-19 vaccine earlier this year.

Photo: Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

The deadlines in many states and cities that require their employees to get vaccinated, without a testing option, have arrived in recent days. Governments in those places are now taking steps to deal with thousands of employees who haven’t complied. Some have quit or been dismissed, some have been placed on leave, and some have been given monthslong extensions to get their shots.

Many of the unvaccinated work in law enforcement, firefighting and correctional institutions.

The question of whether to fire such employees is particularly challenging as many governments, like private businesses, are already struggling to recruit and retain workers.

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Exemptions to the mandates are typically allowed for medical or religious reasons.

In Chicago, Superintendent of Police David Brown said at a press conference Tuesday that 67% of the department’s employees had reported whether or not they were vaccinated by the city’s Oct. 15 deadline, compared with 79% of workers citywide. The deadline for Chicago employees to get vaccinated is late December.

City administrators are holding one-on-one meetings with workers who hadn’t complied, Mr. Brown said. So far, they have met with hundreds of officers and civilian employees, and 21 have been placed on unpaid leave.

“We’re sworn to protect these people in the community. It would go against our oath to take this virus into their homes,” Mr. Brown said.

In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed, a Democrat, said Tuesday that 96% of 35,000 municipal workers are vaccinated and the city is conducting hearings in the cases of 396 who haven’t complied with the city’s mandate.

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said in an interview that if the department loses some officers who refuse to get vaccinated, it will cover the vacancies from within the department. “It will be a hit,” he said. “We don’t want to lose anybody.”

President Biden unveiled a six-pronged strategy to combat the Delta variant of Covid-19 that ramps up vaccine requirements for employers with 100 or more workers, those in the medical field and federal workers. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Los Angeles had required that its 53,168 municipal employees be vaccinated by Wednesday or seek an exemption. According to a proposal released Tuesday, city officials are considering extending the deadline to Dec. 18. Data released by the mayor’s office show 70% of city employees have reported being fully vaccinated, 9% are unvaccinated and another 18% haven’t provided their status.

About 58% of L.A. fire department employees were fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, city data showed. More than 800 firefighters have filed papers saying they intend to sue the city to overturn the mandate.

President Biden announced in September that federal employees must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 22 or face discipline, up to termination. The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is crafting rules that will require private-sector workers at firms with 100 or more employees to be vaccinated or regularly tested for Covid-19.

Write to Jimmy Vielkind at Jimmy.Vielkind@wsj.com and Christine Mai-Duc at christine.maiduc@wsj.com

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