(Reuters) -New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday he was expanding the city’s vaccine mandate to include all public employees, requiring them to show proof of inoculation against COVID-19 or be placed on unpaid leave.
As a sweetener, city employees will receive a $500 bonus for receiving their first shot at a city-run vaccination site by 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 29, the deadline for showing proof of vaccination to a supervisor, de Blasio said in a statement.
“There is no greater privilege than serving the people of New York City, and that privilege comes with a responsibility to keep yourself and your community safe,” he said.
The policy in the most populous U.S. city comes as numerous other municipalities, school districts and other governments across the nation grapple with masking and vaccination requirements. The number of new COVID-19 cases has steadily declined since a surge caused by the Delta variant of the virus during the summer.
Seventy-one percent of all 160,000 New York City workers have already received at least one vaccine dose, the mayor said.
De Blasio said employees will no longer have the option to be regularly tested instead of getting the vaccine, but added that the city will still grant medical and religious exemptions.
The rate of vaccination in the New York Police Department has lagged the overall rate among city workers.
More than 460 New York City police officers have died of COVID-19. Officials with the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York, which represents the city’s 50,000 active and retired police officers, were not immediately available for comment.
Workers at the city’s Department of Education and New York City Health and Hospitals agency have been subject to vaccination mandates since September. The vaccine rate in those departments is at least 95%, de Blasio said.
Civilian employees of the city’s Department of Correction (DOC) and uniformed members of the DOC assigned to healthcare settings are also immediately subject to the mandate. But for other uniformed correction officers, the deadline for vaccination is Dec. 1, as the city works to address severe staffing issues at the Rikers Island jail complex, de Blasio said.
(Reporting by Akriti Sharma in Bengaluru and Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Steve Orlofsky)