The New York Police Department has brought back a mask policy for its officers as COVID-19 cases mount within its ranks.

On Tuesday, a senior NYPD official told CNN that the department was bringing back a mandatory masking policy that it initiated at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The policy will apply to all members regardless of vaccination status while working indoors or interacting with the general public.

The decision to restore the mask policy comes as thousands of NYPD officers have called out sick. As of this week, 2,712 uniformed members of the NYPD were out sick, or about 7.8% of its officer force. According to CNN, these numbers are about double the usual 3% that are out at a given time.

Like other city employees, NYPD employees were required to vaccinate under a mandate ordered by Mayor Bill de Blasio. However, the department had been among the most resistant to abiding by the vaccination mandate. The union representing rank-and-file officers attempted to sue the administration over the mandate, but this effort failed in federal court.

However, the NYPD has since come up to speed with 88% of employees being vaccinated. At the same time, it has been reported that members of the NYPD have sought the most exemptions to the vaccine mandate since it was first announced with an estimated 11% of its workforce pursuing one.

At a time when New York was at the epicenter of the pandemic, the NYPD was initially responsible for enforcing the city’s social distancing policies. Over time, this was curtailed, but the force saw hundreds of officers become infected, including outgoing Commissioner Dermot Shea.

The city is bracing itself for a surge in cases since the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

On Dec. 6, de Blasio announced a tightened COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Under the new policy, vaccination requirements to visit certain businesses are going to tighten considerably. Instead of the previous proof of one dose of a COVID vaccine to enter places like gyms or restaurants, New Yorkers will have to show they are fully vaccinated.

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