In the past week, over 2, 000 firefighters in New York City have been on medical leave as consequences for unvaccinated municipal employees begin.

New York City Fire Department deputy commissioner Frank Dwyer said in an email that the number was “very unusual”. Around 11, 000 firefighters are employed by the department, NBC News reported.

Over 50 percent of the firefighters who used their medical leave have not got any COVID-19 vaccine, a senior city official said, citing vaccination records.

The COVID-19 vaccine mandate has been opposed by some of the U.S. first responders. In fact, some of them are more willing to be kicked out of their workplaces than lose their freedom to get the vaccine or not.

New York City Fire Department union members, municipal workers and others protest the city’s Covid-19 vaccine mandates on Thursday. Mike Segar / Reuters

On Sunday, Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro accused those who called out sick that they are abandoning their oaths that tie them to “faithfully discharge the duties” of their jobs. Workers who were not able to comply with the vaccine mandate are warned not to receive their leave compensation beginning Monday.

“Irresponsible bogus sick leave by some of our members is creating a danger for New Yorkers and their fellow Firefighters,” Nigro said. “They need to return to work or risk the consequences of their actions.”

But the fire commissioner argued that the sickout has caused some of the firehouses’ closure, as claimed by news reports and politicians, including U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-New York. Malliotakis on Saturday said 26 firehouses were shut due to staffing challenges.

“God forbid there is a major fire, or a severe car accident, or if a crime takes place, or even worse,” Malliotakis said.

“The department has not closed any firehouses,” Nigro disputed.

According to the department, fire companies or those firefighting groups which include specialized teams regularly operate and shut but can be challenged with more closures as compared to the usual.