CHICAGO (CBS) — Hours after the FDA granted full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she’ll soon announce a requirement for all city employees to get vaccinated, amid ongoing discussions with labor unions representing the city’s workforce.
“City employees are absolutely going to be required to be vaccinated. We’re working though those discussions, which have been ongoing now for a couple of weeks with our colleagues in organized labor that represent city employees, but 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,” Lightfoot said Monday afternoon.READ MORE: Surveilence Video Shows Moments Leading To The Arrest Of Allan M. Brown, Suspect In Kenosha Police Shooting
The mayor first mentioned the likelihood of a vaccination mandate for city employees in late July, and on Monday she said she expects an announcement on what that mandate will entail “in the coming days.”
The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, which represents rank-and-file police officers, has vowed to fight any such vaccine mandate.
Chicago Public Schools have already required all teachers and staff to get fully vaccinated by Oct. 15, and masks will be required for everyone in school buildings when the new school year starts next week.
However, the Chicago Teachers Union has said they have yet to finalize a COVID-19 safety agreement with the district.
The union claimed CPS has only agreed to about half of the same safety requirements negotiated in the spring.
With COVID cases rising and all students expected to return to the physical classroom, teachers want rules in place so everyone is aware of what to do if someone gets sick, if they have to quarantine or if remote learning needs to be put in place.
“We want to make sure that when our students returns on Monday that they feel safe,” said educator Andrea Parker. “That they know what to do. That our families feel safe with their children coming back to school.”
“What we are proposing, asking, demanding are the same mitigations that have been there already,” said CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates. “We did not experience widespread outbreaks last winter and spring.”READ MORE: 5 Wounded In Mass Shooting In Chatham
Lightfoot said she’s confident CPS and CTU are close to a COVID-19 safety agreement for the upcoming school year.
“So, the big picture issues, we’re all in alignment on. I think there are a few other details that need to be worked out, but we’re ready to open up next Monday,” she said.
The mayor also insisted the district has already proved it can operate schools safely with in-person learning during the pandemic.
“Our schools are safe. We’ve got a mountain of evidence of that fact, starting back in February of this year, when we first reopened elementary schools, signed a deal ratified by the CTU House of Delegates, and then signed a second deal ratified by the CTU House of Delegates in reopening our high schools,” she said.
Lightfoot also noted the Archdiocese of Chicago reopened its Catholic schools for full-time in-person learning in the fall of 2020 without any significant outbreaks during the school year.
“Let me remind you that CPS put in $100 million in COVID mitigation efforts over the course of last year to be able to open up safely. That was everything from improving ventilation systems, air purifiers in every classroom that was being utilized, PPE equipment, and a number of other factors that were invested in to make sure that the schools were safe, and in fact they were safe,” she said.
Meantime, while it’s possible that full approval of the Pfizer vaccine will convince more people who have been hesitant to get a shot to take it, Lightfoot said she doesn’t expect the city will need to reopen mass vaccination sites that were operated in the first few months the vaccines were available to the public.
Instead, she said the city will focus on targeted efforts to boost vaccination rates in parts of the city where it’s lagging, particularly in six to eight zip codes on the South Side, where vaccination rates remain around 30% or lower.MORE NEWS: Bulls Win Home Opener Against The Pelicans
“We’ve just got to keep pushing more and more people who are on the fence that are unvaccinated to get vaccinated,” she said.