Eric Adams may have been elected to take charge of a municipal workforce that numbers 300,000. But as he stepped into the role of mayor last weekend, he confronted a crisis: that workforce has been depleted by the COVID-19 surge currently sweeping the city.
At the Fire Department, 30% of Emergency Medical Services personnel were out sick on Monday, more than at the height of the pandemic in the spring of 2020. Among firefighters, 18% are out. At the Sanitation Department, the number is close to 25%.
City officials said they are weathering the storm.
“When you call for city services, we have not had to turn anyone down,” Adams said at a news conference Tuesday. “The city is stepping up.”
The FDNY said all firehouses are open, and all emergency calls are being responded to. But to stretch its workforce, EMS is implementing mandatory overtime and has put 100 EMTs from its EMS academy on duty.
Wiley Norvell, a longtime top official in the de Blasio administration and a member of the Adams transition team, said the challenges are surmountable.
“One of the things about New York City, it’s a big government,” he said. “These are big agencies that have personnel within them that can be redeployed to the front lines in times of crisis. That’s what’s happening right now. So these are agencies that have tools.”
The NYPD did not provide exact figures Tuesday, but said its sick rate has steadily declined since Friday as members recover from COVID-19.
Adams has been paying regular visits to police roll calls since taking office.
“I’m watching these officers,” he said. “I speak with them and engage with them. They say, ‘Listen, we’re ready to come back.’ They’re coming back within five days.”
But an impact on city services is inevitable. Sanitation officials have been grappling with COVID-related shortages at the same time they’re preparing for snow. And despite contingency plans that include longer shifts, they’ve warned that residents could see delays in garbage pickup.