STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Mayor Eric Adams announced Thursday that New York City’s professional athletes and entertainers no longer need to have coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines to work, but there’s no plan to extend the courtesy to the city’s frontline workers.
When asked during a morning media briefing in Queens if he had considered rehiring the estimated 1,400 municipal workers who lost their livelihoods over the city’s vaccine mandates, the mayor said “not at this time.”
Adams thanked the almost 340,000 municipal workers who chose to be vaccinated, but tilted his head when he came to those who were fired over their refusal to get the vaccine.
“I want to take my hat off to those countless number of New Yorkers, municipal employees that understood what we were going through as a city, and they stood up and they did the right thing,” the mayor said. “At this time we’re not entertaining it [rehiring unvaccinated workers].”
During the media conference in Citi Field’s Jackie Robinson Rotunda, Adams sought to justify the updated exemptions as a leveling of the playing field with out-of-town athletes and entertainers who have always been exempt from the city’s mandate.
However, other state government employees who work in the five boroughs don’t have to be vaccinated either. New York State employees in agencies controlled by the governor have a weekly testing option if they’re unvaccinated. Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees also never needed to be vaccinated.
Several of the city’s municipal unions met Adams announcement with scorn. Police Benevolent association President Pat Lynch issued a statement saying that cops who were on the frontlines during the early days of the pandemic don’t deserve to be treated as second-class citizens.
“We have been suing the city for months over its arbitrary and capricious vaccine mandate — this is exactly what we are talking about. If the mandate isn’t necessary for famous people, then it’s not necessary for the cops who are protecting our city in the middle of a crime crisis,” Lynch, who heads the city’s largest cop union, said.
“While celebrities were in lockdown, New York City police officers were on the street throughout the pandemic, working without adequate PPE and in many cases contracting and recovering from COVID themselves.”
Harry Nespoli — the president of Local 851, the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association and chair of the Municipal Labor Committee — also expressed disapproval of Adams’ decision, and said he hoped for a re-entry program so workers can get their jobs back.
“When New York City shut down, many workers were mandated to come in every day without vaccines to keep the city running. These workers often got sick, and when they got better, came right back to work,” he said.
“There can’t be one system for the elite and another for the essential workers of our city. We stand ready to work out the details with the mayor, as we have been throughout this process.”