NEW YORK — The city reached its deadline for municipal employees to either get immunized against COVID-19 or face termination on Friday, putting unvaccinated city workers on track to lose their jobs.
Fewer than 4,000 of the city's nearly 400,000 municipal employees stand to lose their jobs, according to the city.
Mayor Eric Adams on Thursday said he would go through with the terminations, following rules set months earlier during the previous mayoral administration.
“We’re not firing them. People are quitting,” Adams said at a news conference. “The responsibility is clear.”
Currently, all but three city agencies — the Department of Corrections, the police department and the New York City Housing Authority — have rates of vaccination above 90%, according to data provided by the city.
Adams said he wanted any workers facing termination Friday due to their vaccination status to stay, but that allowing them to keep their jobs wouldn’t be fair to workers who got vaccinated.
“It would do a disservice to those who follow the rules if we don't have a clear direction,” he said.
The coming terminations have led to protests against the vaccine mandates in the city.
Andrew Ansbro, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, the city’s union for fire department employees, decried the terminations. He suggested that it was unfair for the city to fire employees without giving them a chance to “prove” that they had natural immunity that matched the immunity conferred by the vaccine.
“To be told that something you never agreed to is now a mandatory subject of your employment, and if you fail to comply to it, you'll be let go, as if your commitment to the city meant nothing,” Ansbro said in an interview Thursday.
Scientific studies have broadly suggested that seeking immunity through infection is highly risky, given the heightened risks of severe COVID-19 disease. Recent studies suggest that vaccination after infection produces heightened immunity — and in turn reduces spread of the virus — compared with either infection alone or vaccination alone.
Adams also suggested that he did not have immediate plans to alter city rules requiring vaccinations to eat in restaurants, but said he was eager to get rid of pandemic-era restrictions and that his administration was "looking at some things that we're going to roll out."
He said he did not have a target metric or threshold that would determine when he would lift the vaccine rule for restaurants and other businesses, but that he was receiving daily reports from city medical officials, and was waiting for their recommendation to ease restrictions. Adams said he agreed with Gov. Kathy Hochul's decision to eliminate masking requirements for all businesses, and that he wanted to get the city "up and running again."
“Here’s my biggest fear: we prematurely get excited and say, ‘Let's throw caution to the wind,’” he said. “I don't want to see the city shut down again.”
Currently, the state still requires masks in a variety of settings, including public transportation and schools. Learn more about city and state masking rules here.