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Lightfoot Could Announce Vaccine Mandate For City Workers 'Soon'; Talks With Labor Unions Underway

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she expects to announce soon whether city workers will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or face regular testing for the virus, as her administration negotiates with various labor unions on what those rules could look like.

At an unrelated news conference at City Hall on Thursday, Lightfoot said the possibility of a vaccine mandate for city workers "has been on our radar screen for quite a long time, really going back into the spring."

"We're starting the conversations with the public unions that represent city workers, and we'll be making announcements soon. I don't have a particular date, because we need to make sure that we have those conversations," she said.

New York City and the State of California already have ordered government workers to get vaccinated or face regular testing, and President Joe Biden is expected to announce a similar mandate for federal government workers on Thursday, and Lightfoot said she is considering something similar in Chicago.

"We're looking at what's happening in other circumstances, and crafting a strategy that works for Chicago," she said.

In a statement on Facebook, the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, which represents rank-and-file police officers, said "We will fight ANY attempt to FORCE the vaccine on our members!"

The city already requires its government workers to wear masks in common areas of city buildings, and any place they can't maintain proper social distancing. Unvaccinated city workers also are required to wear masks at all times in city buildings.

Meantime, it appears unlikely the mayor plans to reinstate a citywide mask mandate in the coming days. Earlier this week,

Lightfoot told the New York Times she would consider reinstating a mask mandate or other COVID-19 restrictions if and when the city surpasses an average of 200 new COVID-19 cases per day, but on Wednesday Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the city isn't likely to consider a new mask mandate until Chicago passes 400 cases per day.

The mayor insisted the city isn't moving the goalposts when it comes to reinstating COVID-19 restrictions.

"The goalposts haven't moved. Our metrics have been consistent really throughout, and certainly over the last year-plus, but we're concerned about this steady creep up," she said.

While acknowledging the city will surpass an average of 200 cases per day on Thursday, the mayor noted cases aren't doubling as quickly as they were during the first wave of the pandemic in the spring of 2020 or during the second surge last fall.

"Bu t we're seeing a creep up. It wasn't that long ago that we were in 30-plus a day and heading downward. We're now, as you said, probably as of today looking at 200-plus cases a day," she said. "The other important metrics that we're following, though, do give us some reason for optimism, in quotes; and that is we're not seeing a huge surge in hospitalizations. That's important. Or ICU beds. Or people on ventilators."

Lightfoot didn't say what specific benchmarks would prompt the city to enact another mask mandate or impose other COVID-19 restrictions, but she reiterated that she's concerned that so many people still have not been vaccinated, even as the more contagious Delta variant is surging throughout the country.

"We need people to get vaccinated to protect themselves against the variant. Without that protection, you're playing Russian Roulette. This variant is real, it is deadly, and it is devastating," she said.

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