Coronavirus

FDNY firefighters suspended after protesting vaccine mandate at New York state senator’s office, officials say

FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2021, file photo, Dr. Yomaris Pena, Internal Medicine Physician with Somos Community Care at a COVID-19 extracts the last bit of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine out of a vial so as not to waste it at a vaccination site at the Corsi Houses in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York. The number of COVID-19 vaccinations is falling in the U.S. And some experts worry that the decision to give booster doses could end up hurting efforts to get the unvaccinated to take shots at all. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

(CNN) — Six New York firefighters were suspended for four weeks without pay Friday following an incident between on-duty firefighters and an elected official’s staff, according to a statement from a New York City Fire Department (NYFD) spokesperson.

The firefighters drove a fire engine to New York state Senator Zellnor Myrie’s office in Brooklyn in protest of the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, a spokesperson for the senator’s office told CNN Sunday.

Members of the fire department, the New York Police Department and other city workers were required to show proof they’ve received at least one vaccine dose by 5 p.m. Friday or face unpaid leave, under a mandate implemented by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Myrie’s spokesperson Matt Baer said the firefighters went to the senator’s office, rang the doorbell and asked to discuss the vaccine mandate with the Brooklyn-based senator in what Baer described as a “cordial” interaction.

The firefighters asked Baer, who was in the office at the time, where the senator lives and then said the city would have blood on its hands come Monday because of the vaccine mandate.

Baer told CNN that Myrie has not been directly involved with the city-wide vaccine mandate. “We love the firefighters, we have no problem with them at all,” he said. “But this was inappropriate.”

FDNY Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro criticized the firefighters’ actions.

“This is a highly inappropriate act by on duty members of this Department who should only be concerned with responding to emergencies and helping New Yorkers and not harassing an elected official and his staff,” Nigro said in a statement Friday. “The members in question have been immediately relieved of duty and will face disciplinary action.”

The firefighters were from FDNY’s Ladder 113, which is based in Brooklyn.

Reduction in service possible following vaccination deadline

As of Wednesday, the FDNY was preparing for a 20% reduction in service beginning Monday, a source familiar with the ongoing situation told CNN.

On Thursday, members of the FDNY opposed to the mandate crowded outside Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s official residence, to demonstrate, with some attendees carrying signs that read, “Essential Workers aren’t Disposable Heros (sic),” “My Body My Choice,” and “#Natural Immunity.”

Unions for the fire and police departments have come out against the mandate, with Uniformed Fire Officers Association President Jim McCarthy describing a requirement that firefighters make a decision about the vaccine by Friday as “unconscionable.”

Vaccination rates for the FDNY, NYC Department of Sanitation and the NYC Department of Corrections increased by 3% from Saturday to Sunday night, according to vaccination data released by de Blasio’s office.

The percentage of FDNY employees who have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine increased to 80% from 78% on Saturday, according to the data.

As of Sunday night, there were still 22,800 unvaccinated individuals among NYC’s workforce, according to the data. This is in contrast to the 46,300 unvaccinated city employees reported by the city on Tuesday, Oct.19, the day before the vaccine mandate was announced by de Blasio’s office.

Based on the data provided throughout the weekend by the mayor’s office, from Saturday night to Sunday night at least 1,400 NYC employees received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

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