Nearly 600 correction officers with the already depleted city Department of Correction workforce were expected to be placed on unpaid leave Wednesday for not getting inoculated against COVID-19, city officials said.
The roughly 570 uniformed members will be relieved of duty if they showed up for their shifts without getting immunized against the deadly virus following Tuesday’s deadline, according to DOC spokesperson Patrick Gallahue.
An additional 708 corrections officers have applied for an exemption from the vaccine mandate due to religious or medical reasons. They will remain on the job with weekly testing protocols as their applications are reviewed, according to Gallahue.
The figures were released Wednesday afternoon, hours after city officials came seemingly unprepared to the mayor’s daily morning press conference — in which DOC Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi quipped it would take “a level of math that is going to give everyone a headache” to provide a total number of officers on unpaid leave due to the mandate.
The DOC, whose employees have been among the city’s most vaccine-hesitant, did see a 31-point boost in its vaccination rate in the weeks leading up to the deadline for city jail workers.
The agency’s rate among its 7,814 uniformed officers jumped from 46 percent in mid-October to 77 percent this week, officials said.
But the DOC still lags compared to other city agencies.
The NYPD vaccination rate is up to 87 percent, and only 77 of its 35,000 uniformed officers and 202 of its nearly 17,500 civilian employees have been placed on unpaid leave for refusing the vaccine, police officials said.
“We’re grateful for every officer who has stepped up for the community and gotten the shot,” said Gallahue, noting more than 900 DOC staffers had gotten the jab as part of the $500 incentive.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said during the press conference he expected that figure to increase as it did with other city agencies following enforcement of the mandate.
“We have a level of vaccination that allows us to move forward,” he said. “We know that number is going to go up.”
But the already strained city jail system is already down nearly 1,900 officers, with 1,300 others out on sick, medical or military leave, according to the figures provided by the DOC.
The Big Apple jail system has been embroiled in controversy this year over hellish conditions for inmates, forced triple and quadruple shifts for correction officers and a spate of suicides among those locked up.
The mayor gave the DOC permission to assign 12-hour shifts and “any other measures necessary to address the current staffing shortage” earlier this week as the agency prepared for a staff shortage.
“We’re going to be able to have different shifts, different strategies but for the immediate term, we’re taking precautions to make sure the work gets done,” de Blasio said of the executive order Wednesday.
Additional reporting by Gabrielle Fonrouge