CHICAGO (CBS) — As elected leaders and public health officials continue to wrangle with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Lori Lightfoot will address the city this evening in a televised and live-streamed speech from City Hall.
In an address scheduled for 5 p.m., the mayor plans to not only outline the actions the city already has taken to protect the public from the spread of COVID-19, but to preview other steps she plans to take in the days and weeks ahead, including efforts to protect businesses and workers who have been hit hard financially.READ MORE: DNA Brings Pain, Closure To Family Of John Wayne Gacy Victim
“In the midst of unprecedented uncertainty, residents turn to their public officials and expect us to take swift and decisive action grounded in the data to ensure the well-being of their personal health and financial security. Frankly, they should demand nothing less,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “This is a make or break moment as COVID-19 is one of the greatest public health threats of our lifetime. Now is the time for bold, urgent and transparent leadership, not false claims and political games. Chicago’s story is weaved together by the resilient spirit of our residents and communities, and we will rise together again as neighbors and one city.”
Lightfoot is also expected to talk about public safety, and tell us the steps her administration will take to protect residents, focusing on the most vulnerable populations, like the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.
State and local leaders already have ordered a number of restrictions in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Illinois. All schools are closed through March 30, as are all bars, dine-in service at all restaurants, and all public gatherings of more than 50 people.
With restaurants and bars taking a big financial hit from the pandemic, Lightfoot has said she and the Illinois Restaurant Association plan to announce about financial assistance for food industry workers later this week.
The mayor’s office also announced earlier this week she would be taking “several emergency actions” this week in regards to the COVID-19 outbreak; steps which would increase her purchasing authority, ensure city employees are paid while on extended leave, and allow the city to spend federal funds allocated for the costs of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meantime, Lightfoot has suspended “non-essential” city services, allowing many city employees to work from home, barred anyone from City Hall except personnel, and postponed this week’s City Council meeting until April.READ MORE: Police Raid Two Locations Of Parlor Pizza Restaurant
The city also is closing the majority of its libraries starting this weekend, although the Harold Washington Library Center, the Sulzer and Woodson regional libraries, and 17 branch libraries will remain open with modified hours.
The mayor doesn’t want to close the libraries entirely, because some residents rely them as a place to go for basic services. Lightfoot also has said she has no plans to shut down mass transit systems in Chicago, in part because many health care workers rely on public transportation to get to work.
However, CTA bus drivers have said the city isn’t doing enough to protect them from COVID-19. The city is providing hand sanitizer and gloves to drivers, but the president of the transit union said drivers don’t feel safe opening the bus doors in the middle of the outbreak.
“If someone gets on the bus with it, they’re subject to take it home and spread to their families,” Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241 president Keith Hill said. “Why don’t they allow everyone to get on through the back door keep the driver free and clear and more people to wipe down the buses and clean them?”
The CTA said it continues to have a rigorous cleaning regimen for buses, trains, and stations; and it’s working with the union to accommodate drivers’ concerns. Signs are going up at bus stops, reminding drivers to practice social distancing.
Meantime, a group of 10 aldermen has proposed a number of other steps they want the mayor, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, and Gov. JB Pritzker to take in response to the coronavirus pandemic, including:
- Creating an emergency fund to support employees and businesses impacted by the outbreak, including zero-interest loans to cover payroll;
- A moratorium on evictions, foreclosures, and utility shutoffs and late fees;
- A 120-day property tax abatement for 120 days for bars and restaurants after they’re allowed to reopen;
- Cutting the state’s payroll tax, and halting the collection of business license fees and taxes;
- Guaranteeing teachers and other school staff are paid no matter how long schools are closed.
In a conference call with reporters earlier this week, the mayor said she welcomes ideas from aldermen, but said the most effective way for them to present their plans would be to have actual conversations, and not simply send out press releases.MORE NEWS: Aldermen Opposed To City Worker Vaccine Mandate Seek Special City Council Meeting To Repeal It
The mayor’s speech will be broadcast at 5 p.m. today on CBS 2, and will be streamed live on cbschicago.com.