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Vaccine Mandate? Not So Much. City Allowing Testing In Lieu Of Shots For Workers

The city quietly announced workers who don't report in their status, whether vaccinated or not, will be placed on a "non-disciplinary, no pay status."

A mass vaccination site for union workers in Chicago.
Heidi Zeiger/Chicago Mayor's Office
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CHICAGO — The city won’t pay workers who don’t report in their vaccination status by Oct. 15 — but it will allow unvaccinated workers to instead get tested, at least temporarily.

The city quietly announced in a Friday afternoon news release that workers who don’t report in their status, whether vaccinated or not, will be placed on a “non-disciplinary, no pay status.”

But most employees who are fully vaccinated by Oct. 15 will receive one personal day that they can use before June 30, according to the announcement. Members of the Police Department will not get the personal day.

Employees who are not fully vaccinated by Oct. 15, including those who received an exemption, must instead get a COVID-19 test twice per week. They must pay for the tests themselves, get the tests on their own time, and the tests must be separated by three or four days, according to the news release.

That testing option will only be available through Dec. 31; after that, employees must be fully vaccinated unless they’ve received an exemption.

Police officers must report their vaccination status and, if unvaccinated, get tested, but the city is still negotiating with police unions, according to the Mayor’s Office.

The testing measure appears to contradict Lightfoot’s hardline stance on getting workers vaccinated.

It also goes against a plea from President Joe Biden, who on Thursday appeared with Lightfoot and Gov. JB Pritzker in the suburbs, pleading with employers to enforce vaccine mandates among workers. The president said requiring vaccinations among workers is key to ending the pandemic.

Officials have said it’s especially key for people to get vaccinated soon, as there could be surges during the winter months since people will be spending time indoors, where transmission is more likely. But the city’s deadline is now moved back to Dec. 31, well past the time people will have headed indoors.

Block Club reported last week the city would allow unvaccinated workers to instead get tested on a temporary basis.

When announcing the vaccine mandate in August, Lightfoot said all workers would have to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15. That meant all workers would have to have their final shot as of last week.

Lightfoot did not mention testing in her August announcement, nor was it mentioned in a news release explaining the mandate at the time.

Lightfoot has repeatedly pushed for workers to get fully vaccinated, saying it’s needed to ensure city staff is protected from coronavirus — and thereby protect the members of the public they interact with.

“The only way that we can really, truly maximize safety in the workplace” is through vaccines, Lightfoot said at a news conference in September.

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

The mandate has proven controversial, with the Fraternal Order of Police saying it opposes the measure. The Chicago Federation of Labor also criticized the mandate when Lightfoot announced it, saying the measure could “harden opposition to the vaccine.”

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