Shortly after she met President Joe Biden on the tarmac at O’Hare International Airport, Mayor Lori Lightfoot posted this photo and wrote, “Vaccination requirements work. Thank you @POTUS for supporting required vaccinations. The vaccine saves lives and helps us move closer to the end of this pandemic.” --Supplied photo

Shortly after she met President Joe Biden on the tarmac at O’Hare International Airport, Mayor Lori Lightfoot posted this photo and wrote, “Vaccination requirements work. Thank you @POTUS for supporting required vaccinations. The vaccine saves lives and helps us move closer to the end of this pandemic.” --Supplied photo

Pushback against vax

Some city workers say ‘No’ to shots

By Tim Hadac

As the Lightfoot Administration announced that all City of Chicago employees must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by today—or face disciplinary measures—some workers pushed back.

One of the most public was 23rd Ward Ald. Silvana Tabares, who signed a letter of concern to the mayor–with five of her colleagues. In the letter, the aldermen urge Lightfoot to reconsider her order and claim the mandate is an “infringement on the personal freedoms” of city employees.

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Shortly after she met President Joe Biden on the tarmac at O’Hare International Airport, Mayor Lori Lightfoot posted this photo and wrote, “Vaccination requirements work. Thank you @POTUS for supporting required vaccinations. The vaccine saves lives and helps us move closer to the end of this pandemic.” –Supplied photo

The only other Southwest Side alderman to sign the letter was 18th Ward Ald. Derrick Curtis.

When asked to expand upon her concerns, Tabares said, “I support residents having convenient access to vaccinations, which is why I fought to get a number of vaccine events here on the Southwest Side. When the mayor announced that she was going to force workers to be vaccinated without first consulting with those who represent city workers, many residents personally voiced their frustrations to me about the mayor’s tactics. Myself and my family are vaccinated because we chose to be. I signed on to the letter because I felt the mayor’s approach was divisive and counter-productive to encourage more people to be vaccinated.”

Employees who fail to report their vaccination status by October 15, 2021, will be placed in a non-disciplinary, no pay status. If employees are fully vaccinated by October 15, 2021, they will receive one personal day to use before June 30, 2022. Represented sworn employees of the Chicago Police Department will not receive the additional Personal Day.

City workers who are not fully vaccinated by today, including employees who have received an approved medical or religious exemption, must undergo regular COVID-19 testing on a twice weekly basis, with tests separated by 3-4 days, Lightfoot said in a statement last week.

Employees are responsible for obtaining those tests on their own time and at their own expense and reporting those results to the City. This testing option will only be available through Dec. 31. In the new year, employees must be fully vaccinated unless they have received an approved medical or religious exemption.

“The end of this pandemic is within our reach if we continue to get vaccinated and encourage those who haven’t yet received their shots about the safety and efficacy of this lifesaving vaccine,” Lightfoot said. “It is crucial to the health and safety of every resident that we continue our equitable, targeted efforts to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19 across our city and especially within our City departments and agencies. That is why we are providing a testing option for employees until December 31 while we continue to do everything at our disposal to educate employees with true scientific data and research as well as continue our conversations with our unions and labor partners.”

Her assertion was backed up by the city’s leading voice on public health.

“The overwhelming majority of hospitalizations and deaths we see from COVID-19 are among the unvaccinated. This vaccine is safe and it works,” said Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D. “Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect not only yourself but those around you from COVID-19. I applaud this responsible, common-sense requirement to keep the city’s employees and those they work with safe.”

While the Chicago Police Department is required to report vaccination status or be a part of the regular bi-weekly testing., Lightfoot said her administration “continues to bargain in good faith with the Fraternal Order of Police and the Policemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association to reach a fair and workable policy that will keep our first responders safe.”

Chicago FOP Lodge 7 President John Catanzara did not see it that way.

“I am telling every [FOP] member: Do not, do not fill out the [online vaccination status form] right now,” Catanzara said late last week, encouraging members to wait until the last minute to do so.

He chided Lightfoot for what he said was a failure to explain regulations clearly and in writing.

Catanzara also insisted FOP members have more than a religious exemption to avoid being vaccinated.

He said Lightfoot “refuses to acknowledge the conscientious objection exemption from [state law]. Regrettably, they seem to think that’s the same as a religious exemption…[but] it is not about religion. It is a conscientious, firmly-held belief—whatever that might be—about that vaccine.

“You should be entitled to that exemption too, and we’re not going to let [the Lightfoot Administration] get away with ignoring that, like it just doesn’t exist,” Catanzara told members, adding the FOP would go along with mandatory COVID-19 testing for its members, but testing would have to be no more than once a week, it would have to be a saliva test (rather than a deep nasal swab), and tests would have be conducted on the clock and at the city’s expense.

Close to 75 percent of Chicagoans who are currently eligible for the vaccine (about 1.7 million people) have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccinations are widely available at pharmacies, health care offices and through special events across the city at nodirect cost to the public. No insurance or government ID is required to receive a vaccination. To learn more, visit Chicago.gov/COVIDvax or call (312) 746-4835.

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