New York sanitation workers suspended for fake vaccine cards
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Several dozen New York City workers have been suspended without pay as part of an investigation into the use of fake immunization cards at the Sanitation Department, a city official with knowledge of. investigation.
The investigation will include a thorough review of vaccination records to determine the extent of the fraud, said the official, who was not authorized to comment on the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity. The development is the latest in a long debate over the city’s immunization mandate for municipal workers.
The warrant went into effect on November 1 and around 9,000 municipal workers who had not taken the blow were put on unpaid leave, thousands more asking for exemptions for medical or religious reasons. Over the past month, immunization rates have increased in all city agencies, especially in places like the fire and police departments where opposition to the warrant has grown strong.
The Sanitation Department drew special attention for a nine percentage point increase in a single day – bringing its ranks to 76% vaccinated from 67% almost overnight, according to city hall.
“Very encouraging progress”, Mitch Schwartz, spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio, tweeted October 29.
The possibility that some of these vaccinations could have been fraudulent shook the department. A large majority of the roughly 10,000 sanitation workers – over 87% – have received at least one injection, according to a city spokesperson.
“These are very worrying allegations, and we take them very seriously,” said Vincent Gragnani, press secretary for the sanitation department, on Sunday. “Getting the vaccine is important for public health, and we do not tolerate anyone who fakes something that is a requirement of a city job.”
He confirmed that the department was “actively investigating this situation,” in coordination with the city’s investigation department.
The investigation service said it was “aware of allegations involving the issuance of fake vaccination cards” and declined to comment further.
The allegations were first reported in the New York Post on Saturday. It remains to be seen whether criminal proceedings will be initiated. New Yorkers have been charged with creating or using fake vaccination cards.
Harry Nespoli, president of the Teamsters Local 831 union representing sanitation workers, said the investigation was still in its early stages and he was not sure how many workers might be involved.
“It could be 50, it could be 15,” he said. “Everything has to be proven.
Mr Nespoli criticized the mandate, arguing instead for a testing option. He said that even if the union disowned any falsification of records, it would defend its members.
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