Lightfoot to impose vaccine mandate for city employees

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Chicago City Hall
Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday said she would require that city employees be vaccinated against the coronavirus. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

“We absolutely have to have a vaccine mandate. It’s for the safety of all involved, particularly members of the public who are interacting with city employees on a daily basis. It’s important for colleagues to also feel like they have a workplace that is safe,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday there “absolutely” will be a vaccine mandate for city employees because it’s desperately needed to protect co-workers and the general public.

One month after hinting strongly Chicago would follow New York City’s lead by requiring city employees to either show proof that they’ve been fully vaccinated or get tested weekly for the coronavirus, the mayor removed all doubt.

The only question is when the mandate will be imposed, how long unvaccinated city employees will have to comply and what the punishment will be for those among the 33,000-strong workforce who ignore the mandate.

Those details will be announced in the coming days after ongoing negotiations with unions representing city employees have been finalized.

“We absolutely have to have a vaccine mandate. It’s for the safety of all involved, particularly members of the public who are interacting with city employees on a daily basis. It’s important for colleagues to also feel like they have a workplace that is safe,” the mayor said.

“So a vaccine mandate from the city will come, and we’ll make specific announcements in the coming days. … City employees are absolutely gonna be required to be vaccinated. We’re working through those discussions, which have been ongoing now for a couple of weeks with our colleagues in organized labor that represent city employees.”

A healthcare professional administers an injection of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center.
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City employees will have to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday.

In a text message to the Sun-Times, Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter said, “Discussions around COVID-19 vaccinations are ongoing with the city.”

He added, “Any specific policy should be informed by the city workforce. We look forward to continuing those discussions.”

The CFL has an ownership stake in Sun-Times Media.

Anders Lindal, a spokesperson for AFSCME Council 31, had no immediate comment.

Hours after the Food and Drug Administration granted full-use authorization for Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, Lightfoot was asked about the city’s plans to administer booster shots.

“In the short-term, don’t believe that we will need to stand up the huge vaccination sites that we’ve seen before. But a lot of that is gonna depend on what the final CDC guidance is and, obviously, making sure that we’ve got logistical and other resources support,” she said

In the meantime, the city’s laser-like focus remains on convincing unvaccinated Chicagoans to roll up their sleeves.

“When we see that well over 97% of the people who are showing up in hospitals and ending up in ICU beds or worse — and there have been deaths — are among the unvaccinated, we know that there’s a lot more work to be done,” Lightfoot said.

The mayor noted six to eight city ZIP codes, “primarily” on the South Side, have vaccination rates of “30% or less.”

“If we raise the percentage by neighborhood, by ZIP code who are vaccinated, then we’re gonna go a long way toward starting to see the pandemic in the rear view mirror,” the mayor said.

“But where we’ve got numbers like that in certain ZIP codes … we’ve got work to do. … We’ve just got to keep pushing more and more people who are on the fence, who aren’t vaccinated, to get vaccinated.”

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August 23, 2021 at 04:29PM

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