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City Of Chicago Workers Must Have COVID-19 Vaccine By Mid October, Lightfoot Says

CHICAGO (CBS) -- All city workers will be required to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15, Mayor Lightfoot said Wednesday.

"As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise, we must take every step necessary and at our disposal to keep everyone in our city safe and healthy," Lightfoot said in a statement. "Getting vaccinated has been proven to be the best way to achieve that and make it possible to recover from this devastating pandemic. And so, we have decided to join other municipalities and government agencies across the nation, including the U.S. military, who are making this decision to protect the people who are keeping our cities and country moving. We have also been in close communication with our partners in the labor movement to create a vaccination policy that is workable, fair and effective,"

According to the mayor's office, the mandate will apply to all city employees and volunteers.

Employees can apply for medical or religious exemptions, which will be reviewed by the Department of Human Resources on an individual basis.

According to the mayor's office, "fully vaccinated" is defined as two weeks after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks after a single dose of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

City employees will be asked to submit their proof of vaccination via a secure portal, and the mayor's office said the city will make sure that reporting system is secure and confidential.

"Today's announcement is preliminary information, and there will be more to come," a spokesman for the mayor said in response to questions about what might happen to city workers who refuse to get vaccinated.

The Chicago Federation of Labor, which is affiliated with many of the labor unions representing city workers, sounded a cautionary note about requiring vaccines for all city workers.

"We believe in the benefits of vaccination to help protect workers and residents, but we do not believe punitive mandates are the right path to significantly increase vaccine uptake. In fact, we believe this announcement may harden opposition to the vaccine instead of protecting the workers who have sacrificed so much over the past 18 months," CFL President Bob Reiter said in a statement. "We are still in very preliminary discussions with the city about a proposed vaccination policy and we hope this process can be resolved through policymaking, not public communications."

Reiter also said that, in addition to exemptions for medical and religious reasons, the city's vaccination policy for employees should offer testing alternatives, "as we continue to build trust around the benefits of voluntary vaccination."

In a tweet, the mayor said her administration will continue to work with the city's labor unions on the new mandate.

Lightfoot first indicated her plans to issue the order shortly after the FDA granted final approval for the Pfizer vaccine on Monday.

"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.

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.

More than 70 percent (more than 1.6 million) of Chicago residents over 18 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the city said in a news release. The vaccine is free.

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