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NYPD top cop urges COVID vaccinations before Friday deadline that could send quarter of force home without pay

An off-duty NYPD officer is in custody after allegedly shooting her girlfriend and another woman who were in bed together. (Bernhard Richter/Dreamstime/TNS)

The NYPD is doing everything in its power to convince cops to receive life-saving COVID vaccine shots as the city’s mandate deadline looms — a cutoff that could send a quarter of the police force home without pay.

“We have to prepare as if this is going to go into effect Friday evening and that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said on NY1 Tuesday. “We have vaccines available throughout the city for our members.”

Police say that 73% of the NYPD has gotten at least one vaccination shot. The number should increase ahead of the deadline, Shea said. City employees not vaccinated by Friday will be sent home without pay.

“There is a separate caveat for members with special exemptions but we don’t believe that’s going to be a large number,” Shea said.

Opposition to Mayor de Blasio’s mandate led to a massive protest in lower Manhattan Monday and a lawsuit filed by the Police Benevolent Association, which is trying to block the mandate from going into effect.

But Shea doesn’t think his members should wait and see if the lawsuit is successful. Previous legal challenges to a vaccine mandate brought by city Education Department staff have been shot down in court.

“Anyone at this point in time, unless something changes, will be put into a leave-without-pay status,” Shea said. “What I would urge is for people not to wait to the last moment to see what happens with the lawsuit or anything else. Get the vaccine.”

A common conspiracy theory at Monday’s protest was that people with underlying health conditions are at risk of severe side effects from the vaccine. City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi shot that misinformation during a press conference alongside de Blasio.

“People with underlying health conditions are those that will benefit the most from vaccination. And so we strongly encourage anyone with a chronic condition to get vaccinated. And that is not grounds for a medical exemption,” Chokshi said.

De Blasio, meanwhile, emphasized that COVID cases in city have declined as the vaccination rate as gone up.

“Look, I’m believer in vaccine mandates. I’ve said this for public sector, private sector. I think every mayor in America, every governor in America should adopt vaccine mandates. I think every CEO in America should adopt vaccine mandates. They work,” de Blasio said.

On Oct. 21, NYPD Transit Police Officer Marze Murray died from COVID complications — the 63rd NYPD member to die since the pandemic began.

“For no other reason than that, this is why I’ve been pushing these vaccines all along,” said Shea, who also came down with COVID and has since been vaccinated.

Shea would not say how the NYPD will handle a potential 25% drop in staffers come Friday if the vaccination numbers don’t increase. The department has addressed previous staff shortages by ordering cops to work 12-hour shifts, as opposed to regular eight-hour tours.

One NYPD source said that preparations are already underway for longer shifts.

“We will be prepared for any changes in personnel due to the mandate,” an NYPD spokeswoman said, without providing more details on the department’s contingency plans.

The NYPD is doing far better than the city Department of Sanitation, FDNY and Department of Correction, where vaccination rates are all below 63%. The Correction Department is faring the worst, with only 52% of its members vaccinated.

“I don’t know how we got here,” Shea said.

“We even have nurses refusing to get vaccinated. I think people made this such a political issue during the 2020 elections and now it’s come home to roost. Wouldn’t it have ben a nicer situation if you had President Trump and President-elect Biden standing next to each other saying everyone has to get vaccinated right now? But we had it as a political issue and now it’s just festering in the time we’re in.”

“Vaccines have been around a long time,” he added. “They have been mandated in many ways for a long time. (Now) we’re going through this unnecessary pain and losing people.”


© 2021 New York Daily News

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