NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — City officials are developing contingency plans to head off a shortage of first responders if the resistance to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate continues.
There are still thousands of firefighters, emergency medical technicians and others first responders who are resisting Mayor Bill de Blasio‘s orders to get the vaccine. The mayor, however, remains resolute — no shot, no job. But whether it affects public safety remains to be seen, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported Thursday.READ MORE: FAO Schwarz, Uniformed Firefighters Association Shower Children Of Fallen Firefighters With Toys
New York City will still have fire trucks and ambulances to respond to emergencies after the vaccine mandate goes into effect on Friday, just fewer of them.
The FDNY is preparing contingency plans to operate 20 fewer fire companies, though there are usually two companies in each fire house, and 100 to 150 fewer ambulance tours per day if first responders remain adamant about not getting the COVID vaccine.
“The department, Commissioner Nigro and his whole team, I think, are very able to put contingencies in place as needed. They’ve already talked about the fact that they have a variety of tools available, mandatory overtime, scheduling changes,” de Blasio said.
The mayor said the same tools — overtime, shift changes, even things like Sunday garbage pickups — will be used to cope with personnel shortages in other municipal agencies where 160,000 workers have been told that getting a shot by Friday is a mandatory condition for working for the city.
Officials say 65% of firefighters, 80% of EMS responders, 74% of police officers, and 67% of sanitation workers have been vaccinated so far, and the mayor is hoping more will do so before the deadline.
But the unanswered question is, what a shortage of first responders will do to response times?READ MORE: Harlem Mother Of 2 Adianatou-Nene Korouma Dies In Fire; Husband Says She Called To Say She Was Trapped Inside
In fiscal 2021, the average emergency response time was 5 minutes, 23 seconds. It was 4:52 for structural fires.
EMS union president Oren Barzilay said he is concerned.
“When it comes to EMS, minutes count. When you have a life-and-death situation where you stop breathing and you don’t get an ambulance there within four to six minutes, clinical death begins. There is no time to play here with people’s lives,” Barzilay said.
Meanwhile, the five police unions are predicting chaos, since, they say, 10,000 cops remain unvaccinated.
“New York City cannot afford to have a police department that is weak, disorganized and totally dominated by the irrational whims of City Hall,” Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said.
“My job is to keep people safe, my employees and 8.8 million people, and until we defeat COVID, people are not safe,” de Blasio said.MORE NEWS: CBS2 Gets Exclusive Look Inside FDNY's Paramedic Training Program
Even though the deadline for getting the vaccine is Friday, officials are hoping that over the weekend people change their minds when confronted with the reality of losing their paychecks.