Mayor’s Office Quietly Said They’ll Allow Routine Testing For Some

City Worker Vaccine Mandate Watered Down As Mayor’s Office Quietly Said They’ll Allow Routine Testing For Some

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said city workers need to get vaccinated to protect the public — but in a letter to workers, her office said those that don’t can get tested.

Block Club Chicago

Kelly Bauer 9:18 AM CDT on Oct 1, 2021

CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said all city workers need to get vaccinated to protect themselves and the public — but her office quietly revised that policy in a letter to workers.

Instead, workers who don’t get vaccinated by the Oct. 15 deadline will be able to keep their jobs, though they’ll be required to test regularly, according to the letter.

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 Friday.

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 last week.

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

But a letter sent from the city to workers says those who don’t comply can instead get tested. And Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department, said Thursday city workers who don’t get vaccinated can test routinely.

“Employees who are not fully vaccinated by October 15, 2021 will need to undergo regular COVID-19 testing,” according to the letter sent to employees. In another part, it says, “Additional information about testing, including how long the testing option will be available and how to submit test results will be provided as soon as the policy is finalized.”

The Mayor’s Office has not responded to requests for comment.

The mandate has proven controversial, with the Fraternal Order of Police — the largest union representing police officers in Chicago — 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.”

But Lightfoot has insisted the mandate is still a go — while criticizing the police union for not negotiating with the city over the measure.

The city’s mandate also excludes aldermen, with the Mayor’s Office saying they cannot be forced by Lightfoot to get their shots.

The revised policy matches what is being done elsewhere; for example, the state has pushed for workers to get vaccinated and said that those who don’t will have to get tested.

Everyone 12 and older is eligible to get vaccinated in Chicago.

COVID-19 vaccinations are free and do not require insurance. Anyone can call the city’s coronavirus hotline at 312-746-4835 to get more information on how and where to get vaccinated in their community.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.