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Judge denies New York City police union’s request to halt vaccine mandate

A member of the New York Police Department receives a dose of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine at a police academy in Queens on Jan. 11. (Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg News)

A judge on Wednesday denied a request from a New York City police union to temporarily halt Mayor Bill de Blasio’s (D) order requiring all municipal employees, including law enforcement officials, to receive at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by later this week or face unpaid leave.

Richmond County Supreme Court Judge Lizette Colon ruled that de Blasio’s mandate — which the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York is seeking to overturn — can proceed, reportedly citing a previous state appellate ruling that upheld a vaccine mandate for measles.

Patrick J. Lynch, president of the police union that argues de Blasio’s mandate doesn’t provide sufficient religious exemptions, said in a statement Wednesday that the mandate “will inevitably result” in fewer police officers available to protect the city’s streets next month.

“New Yorkers should know who to blame for any shortfall in city services: Mayor Bill de Blasio” and other officials supporting the vaccine mandate, he said.

Johns Hopkins University epidemiologist Gypsyamber D'Souza explains how the U.S. can reach coronavirus herd immunity and what happens if that goal is missed. (Video: Brian Monroe, John Farrell/The Washington Post)

Union members have also expressed frustration with the city’s decision to stop giving municipal employees the option to provide negative test results, instead of getting vaccinated.

The mandate applies to around 160,500 individuals, although 71 percent of them had already received at least one shot of a vaccine, the city said last week. City officials must have at least one dose by 5 p.m. Friday, the city said.

Police departments are facing an infection crisis, as departments around the country seeking to mandate vaccinations clash with police unions and officers who oppose the requirements. Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego and Seattle are some of the cities that have seen clashes between law enforcement officers and municipal leaders over such mandates.

Earlier this month, Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, urged police officers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus — saying the resistance “doesn’t make any sense” as “more police officers die of covid than they do in other causes of death.”

Fauci urges police officers to get vaccinated as union protests heat up

Law enforcement officers are considered to be at higher risk because they are exposed to more people in the line of duty. Around 500 police officers have died of covid-19 during the pandemic. The disease caused by the coronavirus was the leading cause of death for officers in 2020 and 2021, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

New York City’s police department employs around 36,000 officers and 19,000 civilians. Around 75 percent of the police department are vaccinated, tweeted Police Commissioner Dermot Shea on Wednesday.

Up to 45 percent of New York City firefighters could remain unvaccinated, said Andrew Ansbro, the president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, a union representing the city’s firefighters, during an interview on Fox this week.

In remarks published by the New York Post on Wednesday, Ansbro said he was concerned that if too many firefighters were forced off their jobs, response times could increase, resulting in more deaths in the city. The fire department expects a fifth of its fire companies and ambulances to be offline due to the vaccine mandate, the Associated Press reported.