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Lightfoot Defends COVID Vaccine Mandate For City Workers, Says They Owe It To Themselves And The Public

Mayor Lori Lightfoot called getting the vaccine "a condition of employment" for city workers.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot attends the groundbreaking ceremony for Neighborhood Opportunity Fund recipient Bronzeville Winery as part of the City's INVEST South/West initiative on April 28, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Friday defended her decision to require city workers to get vaccinated against coronavirus.

Lightfoot announced the vaccine mandate earlier this week, saying all city workers must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15. The move angered union leaders, who had been in the process of negotiating the mandate with the city.

But Lightfoot defended the mandate Friday, saying the requirement is needed to keep employees and the public safe as Delta causes another wave of cases in the city.

“We owe it to the public to also make sure they’re protected so we’re protected,” she said.

Lightfoot refused to say if workers who don’t get vaccinated will be fired, saying she doesn’t want the requirement to be “punitive.”

“We always want to engage with our unions …,” Lightfoot said. “But it’s a condition of employment. We are in a pandemic.”

Chicago Public Schools is requiring its staff to be vaccinated by Oct. 15, and Gov. JB Pritzker announced Thursday state education workers must get vaccinated. He’d already announced state workers in congregate facilities, like prisons and nursing homes, have to get their shots.

The city’s October deadline will give workers ample time to get both shots if they opt for the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, Lightfoot said. It takes two weeks after the final shot of a vaccine to be considered fully vaccinated.

The mayor said the workers in her office are vaccinated.

“We have to lead by example,” she said. “We have to make sure folks are vaccinated.”

Unions have pushed back against the mandate, saying it could turn workers away from getting their shots.

“We believe in the benefits of vaccination to help protect workers and residents, but we do not believe punitive mandates are the right path to significantly increase vaccine uptake,” Bob Reiter, Chicago Federation of Labor president, said in a news release Wednesday. “In fact, we believe this announcement may harden opposition to the vaccine instead of protecting the workers who have sacrificed so much over the past 18 months.

“We are still in very preliminary discussions with the city about a proposed vaccination policy and we hope this process can be resolved through policymaking, not public communications. However, any discussion around a vaccine policy should include not only medical and religious exemptions, but also testing alternatives as we continue to build trust around the benefits of voluntary vaccination.”

The Fraternal Order of Police, the city’s largest police union, has also fought the requirement.

Some have suggested allowing regular testing in lieu of requiring vaccinations. But Lightfoot said tests can only provide people people with proof they were negative for COVID-19 for a limited period of time.

“The only way you can be safe — not even feel safe; be safe” is by getting vaccinated, she said.

Vaccinations:

• In Illinois, about 6.7 million people — or 52.92 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — have gotten all their COVID-19 vaccine shots, according to state data.

• Across the state, 24,056 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average.

• Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 13,914,213 vaccine doses of the 16,146,505 provided to them.

• City data shows more than 1.48 million Chicagoans — or 55.1 percent of all residents — are fully vaccinated. About 60.6 percent of all Chicagoans have gotten at least one shot.

COVID-19 vaccinations are free and do not require insurance. Anyone can call the city’s coronavirus hotline at 312-746-4835 to get more information on how and where to get vaccinated in their community.

The numbers:

• Fourteen Illinoisans were reported dead from COVID-19 since Thursday.

• At least 23,889 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 2,531 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.

• The state reported 4,942 cases since Thursday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 1,508,005.

• Since Thursday, 110,833 tests were reported statewide. In all, 28,568,305 tests have been reported in Illinois.

• Illinois’ seven-day positivity rate was at 5.2 percent. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests.

• Illinois’ seven-day test positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, was at 5.7 percent.

• As of Thursday night, 500 people with COVID-19 were in the ICU and 253 people with COVID-19 were using ventilators in Illinois.

• In Chicago, no deaths were reported since Thursday. There have been at least 5,612 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago. The city is seeing an average of more than three deaths per day, a 4 percent decrease from the week prior.

• Chicago has had 709 confirmed cases reported since Thursday. It’s had a total of 301,696 confirmed cases. An average of 476 confirmed cases are being reported per day, a 7 percent decrease from the week prior.

• At the same time, testing has increased 4 percent since a week ago.

• Chicago’s positivity rate was at 4.2 percent, down from 4.7 percent the week prior.

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