New York Mandate Podcast, Ep. 3: Paramedic Krista O'Dea
“Nothing good has ever come of controlling other people’s bodies”: A conversation with FDNY paramedic Krista O’Dea, who was fired after her request for religious exemption to the mandate was denied.
“Alternative views have been sort of shut down and demonized. And I think that if we were to be given more public light, people would see that we are just people too. We’re not these evil people who want to hurt others and don’t care about others or want to see people die. . . . People will see that: ‘Oh my gosh, these are just regular people. They’re not these crazy fanatic types.’ No. We’re just regular people who have dedicated our lives to helping others.” - Krista O’Dea
In this episode of the New York Mandate podcast, I talk with Krista O’Dea. She began working as an EMT in 2004 and joined the Fire Department of the City of New York in 2005. O’Dea became a paramedic in 2008. In February 2022, she was put on unpaid leave when her application for a religious exemption to the New York City COVID-19 vaccine mandate for municipal workers was denied. Her employment with FDNY was terminated in March 2022.
O’Dea talked with me about working 16-18 hour shifts during the height of the pandemic, why the health care system’s response to COVID-19 was eye-opening even for a veteran paramedic, and how handling life-or-death situations over the course of her 17-year career has shaped her views.
We also talked about the personal convictions and principles that led to her decision not to comply with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, as well as the legal case and future options she’s pursuing.
Here are some links related to things we talked about during the episode:
Bravest for Choice
An organization supporting NYC firefighters, medics, and EMTs who have been terminated or put on leave because they have not complied with the city’s vaccine mandates.
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
The EEOC enforces federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, transgender status, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.
Order of the Commissioner of Health and Mental Hygiene to Require COVID-19 Vaccination for City Employees and Certain City Contractors
This is the order that former Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi issued on October 20, 2021 requiring New York City municipal employees and contractors to be vaccinated. This is the mandate that led to Krista O’Dea’s employment being terminated.
Order of the Commissioner of Health and Mental Hygiene to Require COVID-19 Vaccination in the Workplace
This is the order that former Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi issued on December 13, 2021 requiring all workers in New York City who work in a workplace or interact with other workers or the public to be vaccinated.
NYC Vaccination Requirement: Workplaces
This is where you can find current information on New York City’s workplace vaccination requirements.
New Jersey COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements for Workers
The state of New Jersey, where Krista O’Dea lives, also has a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for some workers.
About the New York Mandate Podcast
The New York Mandate Podcast is an ongoing series of conversations exploring the costs and consequences of vaccine mandates in New York City. I’ll be talking with workers who have been directly affected by the mandates, as well as legal and policy experts.
In late 2021, the city introduced a series of requirements for workers to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. These requirements were put in place through executive orders issued by the administration of former mayor Bill de Blasio.
Current mayor Eric Adams continues to support the mandates, and they now extend to most working people in the city of New York. Private sector employers are required to affirm that their employees have been vaccinated, and public sector employees of city agencies have been terminated or put on unpaid leave for failing to comply with the vaccine requirement.
The views expressed in the New York Mandate podcast are the personal opinions of the people speaking, and are not intended to provide medical or legal advice.
Join the Conversation
Have you lost your job, been put on leave, or lost opportunities to work as an independent contractor as a result of your decision not to comply with a New York vaccine mandate? Did you take a vaccine against your wishes in order to keep your job? Please get in touch with me at NYMpodcast@protonmail.com.