Mayor Lori Lightfoot will soon announce a vaccine mandate for city employees, she said Monday, though her administration is still trying to hammer out the details with unions that represent the workers.
“City employees are absolutely going to be required to be vaccinated,” Lightfoot said at an unrelated news conference. “We’re working through those discussions which have been ongoing now for a couple weeks with our colleagues in organized labor that represent city employees.
“But we absolutely have to have a vaccine mandate,” she continued. “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’s safe. So a vaccine mandate from the city will come, and we’ll make specific announcements in the coming days.”
More than 30,000 people are employed by the city.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle issued an executive order Friday mandating vaccines for county employees. Chicago Public Schools will also require teachers and other employees to be vaccinated unless they qualify for a religious or medical exemption. Both the county and CPS are giving employees until Oct. 15 to be vaccinated.
Lightfoot’s comments came after Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker hailed the federal Food and Drug Administration’s decision to grant full use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine and said he believed it would lead to more unvaccinated people to take the shot, though he stopped short of a widespread mandate. Pritzker has generally supported the ability of cities to enact more stringent coronavirus mitigation measures than what he has issued under his executive authority.
Speaking at the University of Illinois in Urbana to tout state infrastructure investments for the U. of I. system, Pritzker also credited university researchers for developing the Shield saliva-based coronavirus test, 28 of whom were awarded presidential medallions by system President Timothy Killeen.
“At this point now, today, as a result of what the FDA has done, there are reams and reams of research that has now been done to prove these vaccines are effective, especially the mRNA vaccines like Pfizer, and so I’m very happy about that,” Pritzker said.
“I think so many people who may have been hesitant, wondering whether it was approved too quickly, now, literally almost a year later, we now have so much research to show these work,” he said. “I think that that means many more people will choose to get vaccinated.”
Asked by a reporter if the FDA’s move from previously granting emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine during the pandemic to full use authorization would mean additional steps by the Pritzker administration to mandate vaccinations among state employees or the public, the governor said only that he expected “there will be private institutions that will choose to require vaccinations.”
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Earlier this month, Pritzker required state employees who work in congregate settings, such as prisons and veterans’ homes, to be vaccinated by Oct. 4. The state’s largest employee’s union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has encouraged vaccination but opposes a vaccine mandate.
The University of Illinois system had mandated vaccinations and testing for those who cannot receive the vaccination for students, faculty and staff for the new school year.
Pritzker has been vaccinated with the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine which has FDA emergency use approval but has not yet received full use approval.
Pritzker says the university’s development of the Shield saliva-based coronavirus test was a convincing factor in the early days of the pandemic that serious steps such as a stay-at-home order were necessary.
“During what may well be the greatest global crisis of our time, leaders here at the University of Illinois collectively accomplished miracles — a demonstration of excellence and ingenuity and of how this university shines a light on the greatness of our state,” the governor said.
Killeen, the system’s president, called the development of the test, now in use at over 1,000 grade and high schools, “groundbreaking” and said researchers have “proven in real time, with real tangible examples, just what our universities mean to our people in Illinois and beyond.”
While speaking at the university, Pritzker also announced the departure from his staff of Jesse Ruiz, his deputy governor for education. Ruiz is a former chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education, a former interim CEO of the Chicago Public Schools and a former president of the Chicago Park District board.
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