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Deadline Day for Unvaccinated Municipal Employees in N.Y.C.

Good morning. It’s Friday. We’ll look at why 3,000 New York City workers could be fired today and how a Long Island Republican used a mask rebellion to revive his career. We’ll also meet the new president of Jesuit-run Fordham University, a laywoman, not a Catholic priest.

Credit…Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Today is the day New York City is expected to fire as many as 3,000 municipal workers who have refused to get coronavirus vaccines.

They make up a small fraction of the city’s employees — less than 1 percent. But they would probably represent the most drastic example of a work force reduction tied to a coronavirus vaccine mandate. Mayor Eric Adams has said that he would prefer not to fire the unvaccinated, but by remaining so, they were “quitting.”

They are not going quietly. Hundreds marched across the Brooklyn Bridge on Monday, chanting that the city should end the mandate and carrying signs that said “Unvaccinated Lives Matter” and “Fire Fauci.” Adams has reaffirmed the city’s ultimatum: They will be the ones fired unless they get at least one shot.

My colleague Emma G. Fitzsimmons writes that the mandate, imposed by Adams’s predecessor, Bill de Blasio, has been effective. About 95 percent of the city’s 370,000 workers are now vaccinated, an increase from 84 percent when the mandate was announced in October.

Vaccination rates among city agencies have been uneven. The police and jail workers have the lowest compliance rates, with 88 percent having received at least one dose, while about 95 percent of workers at the Fire Department and the Sanitation Department have received one dose.

Credit…Johnny Milano for The New York Times

The Long Island Republican who rode a mask rebellion to prominence

“I’m not going to follow the New York City model,” Bruce Blakeman said after he was elected Nassau County executive in November. He told Newsday that police officers and firefighters “will not be fired if they choose, with their physician, not to get a vaccination.”

But the mandates he has attacked since January came from Albany, not New York City. He has been on a seemingly single-minded mission to defy Gov. Kathy Hochul over mask regulations, and it has resurrected him politically, making him the state Republican Party’s newest star.

Hochul let some rules on indoor masking expire yesterday. She said that counties and individual businesses could still require masks, framing the decision as empowering for local leaders.

A countywide mandate in Nassau is unlikely. Blakeman made headlines last month with executive orders directing county agencies to stop enforcing mask mandates. He also announced that local school districts had to vote on whether to give children what he called “the constitutional right” to shed their masks in the classroom.

He and Hochul clashed over whether his orders were legal. My colleague Jesse McKinley writes that the defiant stance catapulted Blakeman into the role of sought-after rabble-rouser, complete with repeated appearances on Fox News. He has brought a certain bravado to Mineola, where the county government has its offices, and has provided gossip-column fodder, in part because his ex-wife, Nancy Shevell, is now married to Paul McCartney.

He says the executive orders about masks stemmed from genuine concerns, not a thirst for a place on a bigger political stage. “I think good government is good politics,” Blakeman said in a recent interview. “And part of good government is listening to your constituents.”

His opponents counter that such comments disguise an ambitious and oft-thwarted politician who has found his moment amid the polarization of the Trump era.

“He’s following the tried-and-true Republican playbook,” said Jay Jacobs, who is both the Nassau County Democratic Party chairman and the state party chairman. “You either scare the voters or make them angry.”

Blakeman ran a law-and-order and anti-tax campaign against Laura Curran, an incumbent Democrat seeking a second term in November. He seemingly knitted a coalition of worried suburbanites and die-hard Trump conservatives in a county where Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 25,000. There are also some 200,000 independent voters.

His margin was thin: He beat Curran by less than 1 percent, or about 2,100 votes.

His sudden prominence in the Republican ranks has led to chatter that he might want to challenge Hochul at some point. Blakeman denied it, saying he supports Representative Lee Zeldin, the front-runner for the Republican nomination for the election in November.

“I have zero plans,” Blakeman said. “This is a great job. I love it. And I get to stay home.”


Weather

Expect another sunny day with temps in the low 50s. Clouds will appear in the evening with temps in the mid-40s. Wind gusts possible throughout the night.

alternate-side parking

In effect today. Suspended tomorrow (Lincoln’s Birthday).


The latest New York news

  • Employees at three Starbucks stores in New York City filed petitions to unionize and are asking to hold a vote on March 3.

  • A married couple was accused of using the foster care system for a sex trafficking operation that pushed at least eight women into prostitution.

  • The New York Times is free to publish documents pertaining to Project Veritas after a New York State appeals court temporarily stayed an order by a state trial judge.


Fordham will be led by a woman, not a Roman Catholic priest

Credit…Carly Zavala for The New York Times

Fordham University, one of the most prominent Jesuit universities in the United States, named a new president, and my colleague Liam Stack writes that the choice breaks with tradition in two significant ways. For the first time since it opened in 1841, Fordham will be led by a laywoman instead of a Jesuit priest.

The new president will be Tania Tetlow, currently the president of another Jesuit school where she was also the first woman and the first layperson in the job, Loyola University New Orleans. She will be installed at Fordham in July when the Rev. Joseph McShane steps down after 19 years as president.

The Coronavirus Pandemic: Key Things to Know


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Some mask mandates ending. Several states in liberal-leaning parts of the U.S. are quickly moving away from mask requirements as the Omicron wave recedes, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was not ready to change its guidance in regards to masks.

Unvaccinated city workers. New York City is expected to fire up to 3,000 municipal workers, including police officers, firefighters and teachers, on Feb. 11 for refusing to get vaccinated against the coronavirus — possibly the largest worker reduction in the nation tied to a vaccine mandate.

Around the world. Blockades at the U.S.-Canada border, a spillover from protests in Ottawa against vaccine mandates, are disrupting production at major car companies. In Britain, Prince Charles tested positive for the coronavirus for a second time.

The decision makes Fordham the 21st Jesuit college or university to be led by a layperson and the sixth to be led by a woman. But Fordham, in announcing Tetlow’s appointment, went to great lengths to emphasize her personal connection with the Jesuit order.

Her uncle, the Rev. Joseph Tetlow, is a well-known Jesuit writer and former head of the Secretariat for Ignatian Spirituality in Rome and the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, now part of Santa Clara University.

Her father spent 17 years as a Jesuit before he left the order to start a family, and her parents met as graduate students at Fordham. In a video message to the university community, Tetlow said that “Fordham is the reason that I exist.”


What we’re reading

  • The Brooklyn Museum announced that an exhibition dedicated to Virgil Abloh, the influential men’s wear designer who died last year, will open in July, Brooklyn Magazine reports.

  • Pandemic isolation, and a rejection of deodorant, finds a niche nightlife release at “Pheromone” — a party for the smelly and those who admire them.

  • The Guardian reported on the struggles those with criminal backgrounds face when trying to secure housing in New York City.


METROPOLITAN diary

Let it fall

Dear Diary:

It was an overcast Saturday in November when I drove from my home in the Bronx into “the city” for an art class. The weather report had predicted rain, but since I was going to be inside, I had left my raincoat and umbrella at home.

When I got to 57th Street for my class, I was told it had been canceled unexpectedly.

I wasn’t sure what to do, but I had already paid for parking so I decided to walk to Columbus Circle, sit by the entrance to Central Park and do some people-watching.

After about an hour, a light rain started to fall, and I figured I had better get back to my car.

I had barely crossed Central Park South when the skies opened up. I have always loved a good storm, so I decided not to take shelter inside. Instead, I wedged myself into a corner between two buildings, outside a coffee shop.

The storm intensified with thunder and lightning — and then hail began to fall! As I huddled in my corner, I saw people laughing and screaming and running for cover, some into the coffee shop behind me, some into the subway station directly in front of me.

I started laughing myself. I couldn’t stop for the next half-hour, when the storm finally began to let up.

Walking the three blocks back to my car, I saw a couple pass by in a pedicab. When I waved and they saw I was chuckling, they started laughing uncontrollably, too.

— Pamela deVries Mullen

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.


Glad we could get together here. See you Monday. — J.B.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

Melissa Guerrero, Geordon Wollner, Olivia Parker and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at nytoday@nytimes.com.

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