More New York City workers get Covid shots as deadline nears, but tensions remain.
New York City’s sweeping effort to compel most city employees to receive the coronavirus vaccine before Monday appears to have rapidly boosted inoculation rates and pressured thousands of police officers, firefighters and other government workers who had long held out to get the shot.
The vaccination rate among workers affected by the city’s mandate rose to 83 percent at the end of Friday, from 71 percent on Oct. 19, the day before the requirement was announced, according to city data. Some individual agencies reported jumps in vaccination rates of nearly 10 percentage points between Thursday and Friday alone.
The last-minute rush in the nation’s largest municipal work force mirrored similar patterns involving other vaccine mandates. Thousands of health care workers around the state rushed to get their first doses in the days before a requirement for employees at hospitals and nursing homes took effect last month.
Still, more than 25,000 city workers affected by the mandate remain unvaccinated and will be placed on unpaid leave on Monday if they do not receive the shot over the weekend. And speculation was fueled in recent days that some employees in agencies including the Sanitation and Fire Departments had already begun to slow down work in protest of the mandate.
New Yorkers across several boroughs, for example, have reported garbage pileups and significant delays in trash pickups in their neighborhoods.
Sanitation officials say the most severe delays have been seen across Staten Island and in parts of southern Brooklyn including the Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst areas. Data shows that overall 311 complaints soared last week with more than 1,000 reports of uncollected trash and recycling on some days, as the local news outlet Gothamist reported. (The number had hovered between 100 and 250 through the rest of October.)
Mayor Bill de Blasio said this week that he believes some of the delays may be attributed to declines from workers in protest of the vaccination requirement.
“I’m assuming it is related to people expressing their views on this new mandate,” Mr. de Blasio said at a recent news conference. “You want a protest, go protest. But when you’re on the clock, you have to do your job.”
Similar problems were reported among some workers in other agencies as the vaccination deadline approached.
Fire officials said that an uptick in sick calls among employees toward the end of the week was responsible for the temporary closures of several fire stations across the Bronx and other boroughs.
“The excessive sick leave by a group of our firefighters because of their anger at the vaccine mandate for all city employees is unacceptable, contrary to their oaths to serve and may endanger the lives of New Yorkers,” the fire commissioner, Daniel A. Nigro, said in a statement.
Union leaders for both fire and sanitation workers denied reports of the changes in work patterns.
Still, the overall rise in the vaccination rate for municipal workers offered a measure of optimism that significant disruptions to government agencies and city life could be avoided as enforcement of the mandate begins on Monday.
Before the requirement was announced on Oct. 20, and an option to opt into weekly testing was removed, only about 60 percent of employees in the Fire and Sanitation Departments had received at least one vaccine dose. The Police Department’s rate sat around 70 percent.
Holdout workers were offered $500 as a bonus if they got vaccinated by the end of the workday on Friday. By that deadline, more than 75 percent of fire and sanitation workers had been vaccinated — along with nearly 85 percent of the Police Department’s 36,000 uniformed and 15,000 civilian employees.
Joseph Goldstein contributed reporting.
Russia announced a record number of new infections on Saturday ahead of a “nonworking week” that authorities hope will slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Authorities reported 40,251 new infections in the preceding 24 hours, a record, and 1,160 deaths. More than 237,380 have died of Covid-19 so far, the largest rate in Europe.
President Vladimir V. Putin has largely left it to regional governors to implement pandemic-related restrictions but has recently taken a more active role, ordering that all nonessential workers stay home from Oct. 30 until Nov. 7.
Moscow, with 7,267 new infections in the past 24 hours, has been an epicenter of the pandemic. The city began a light lockdown two days earlier, on Oct. 28. Schools, kindergartens, nonessential shops, restaurants, bars and gyms are closed, while museums and theaters remain open at 50-percent capacity.
As in other regions, the health care system is being put to the test.
“Health care is working to its limits,” Moscow’s regional governor, Andrei Vorobiev, told the government network Channel One earlier in the week.
He noted that more than 500 people were on ventilators, also a record number. He said that 80 percent of the 10,000 hospitalized Covid patients had not been vaccinated.
Anna Popova, the head of Russia’s consumer health watchdog, said the more contagious AY.4.2 strain of the Delta variant had been identified in the Moscow region.
Only about one third of Russians are fully vaccinated, though the rates in Moscow are higher. Scholars attribute this to mistrust in the authorities and in vaccines. Authorities hope the restrictions will motivate more people to get the shots.
Russia’s statistics agency said Friday that 44,265 people died of Covid-19 or complications from it in September. The agency has registered more than 450,000 deaths in Russia, which has a population of 144 million. It is one of the highest death rates in Europe.
Moscow’s mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, has said he hopes that the city will reopen on Nov. 7, despite rumors swirling that the restrictions will be extended for several more weeks, or until the New Year. He has also introduced free express Covid-19 tests and announced stricter enforcement of a mask mandate on the Moscow Metro.
The restrictions have polarized residents of the capital city. Travel agencies reported unusually high interest in package holidays for the week. Some residents complained about the fact that there is no system in place to allow vaccinated people to live normally and enter venues using QR codes as proof of vaccination, which could be an incentive to get the vaccine. Others complain that recent measures are too little, too late.
“We needed to do this sooner, because the numbers are scary,” said Anna Zhurba, a 33-year-old museum employee. “Today, we have the highest number of new infections yet. How will one week improve the situation?”
Institutions can decide independently to use QR codes, though there is no mandate. Ms. Zhurba said that when her museum announced a requirement to show a QR code upon entry, some responded by calling the restriction a “fascist way of dividing people.”
A Los Angeles police union sued the city on Friday over the implementation of a Covid-19 vaccination mandate for its employees, claiming that a city official stood to benefit from the terms of the policy.
The union, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, charged in the lawsuit that the city failed to disclose that the contractor hired to test employees for Covid-19 was partly owned by the commissioner of the pension fund for firefighters and police officers.
Police unions across the country, from Chicago to Washington State, are urging members to resist Covid vaccine requirements — despite the virus being by far the most common cause of officer duty-related deaths this year and last, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit that tracks officers’ deaths across the country.
Some have resorted to the courts. Earlier this week, New York City police unions filed a lawsuit asking to allow unvaccinated police officers to continue working, despite the city’s recently imposed vaccine mandate, which requires all municipal workers to have received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose by Nov. 1.
In Los Angeles, the police union agreed in bargaining to the city’s requirement that unvaccinated employees…