Thousands of First Responders Are Out Sick Amid Omicron Surge

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With over 40,000 positive tests reported in the five boroughs on Wednesday, New York City’s emergency workers are being exposed to COVID-19 in record numbers.

According to the New York Post, more than 6,000 New York Police Department officers were out as of Tuesday, with half of that number describing flulike symptoms and over 1,300 testing positive for the coronavirus. With 17 percent of uniformed officers out sick, that tally is double the total from the prior Tuesday and far beyond the average of 1,500 that call out for health reasons any given day. The current wave inundating the city, led by the more transmissive Omicron variant, has also impacted its fire department. According to NBC News, 30 percent of the FDNY’s 4,400 emergency medical-service workers are out sick, along with 17 percent of the force’s more than 10,000 firefighters. According to an FDNY spokesperson who spoke with Gothamist, that is the largest number of paramedics and EMTs out with illness during the pandemic. Meanwhile, daily calls to 911 for fevers and coughs have more than doubled since the beginning of the month.

As New York State continues to break daily records for cases — the current high sits around 67,000, though hospitalizations remain far lower than in previous surges — cops and firefighters are not the only frontline workers with large numbers of their ranks stuck at home. Internal data from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority obtained by The City shows that there were 169 subway workers who tested positive in the week ending in December 16 — a 156 percent increase from two weeks earlier. As a result of the limited staff, the MTA cut back on service this week in order to “re-allocate train crews where they’re needed, rather than cancel individual trips.” On Tuesday, the W train was suspended entirely, with riders expected to use the N train in Queens and the R train in Manhattan as alternatives; the MTA did not clarify if the suspension would last beyond Wednesday. With hospital staffing shortages already impacting doctors and nurses around New York, the urgent-care provider CityMD announced Tuesday it would close 31 clinics in the metro area due to staff shortages.

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Thousands of NYC First Responders Are Out Sick Amid Omicron