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New York City, State Of California To Require COVID Vaccinations Or Weekly Tests For Government Workers; Could Chicago Follow Suit?

CHICAGO (CBS Chicago/CBSNewYork/CBSLA) -- Get vaccinated or get tested every week – it is the new mandate in New York City, where city workers have until September to get on board.

The State of California has announced the same thing.

So with cases on the rise in Chicago, could we see such a rule as well? CBS 2's Tara Molina brought that question directly to Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday.

In response to COVID-19 cases rising in Chicago, Mayor Lightfoot warned that a possible return to a mask mandate is on the table, along with other public health measures – though the mayor was not specific.

As for a vaccine requirement? She didn't say no, but she didn't say yes.

Teachers, police officers, firefighters, and municipal workers in New York City have to get vaccinated or get tested weekly starting Sept. 13, based on an announcement Monday by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

"In September, everything is going to come together. September is the pivot point of the recovery," de Blasio said. "This is about our recovery, this is about what we need to do to bring back New York City."

As CBS New York reported, people working in congregate residential settings in New York City – such as homeless shelters, foster care, or senior centers, need to be vaccinated even sooner, by Aug. 16, or face weekly testing.

Last week, New York City announced similar requirements for health care workers, beginning on Aug. 2.

The State of California has also followed suit, with a similar announcement for all state workers and health care employees.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced vaccine verification for state employees there is expected to start as early as next week, and the system will be implemented over the coming weeks. Compliance for all health-care settings, both public and private, will be expected by Aug. 23 across that state.

California is the first state to implement such a policy, CBS Los Angeles reported.

So what about Illinois – Chicago, where we've seen cases on the rise?

"Really, the Delta variant is, I think, the thing we're most concerned about," Mayor Lightfoot said.

Earlier in the day, Lightfoot told the New York Times she would consider reinstating a mask mandate and other efforts to contain the spread of the virus if Chicago surpasses an average of 200 new cases per day. According to the latest metrics provided by the Chicago Department of Public Health, Chicago was averaging 148 cases per day as of Wednesday.

We followed up on that.

"I'm confident with the measures that are in place, but everything is subject to change based upon the data and the science," Mayor Lightfoot said Monday afternoon.

The mayor didn't directly address questions about the possibility of similar requirements for Chicago city employees. But she said she is in talks with the various labor unions representing Chicago city workers about similar rules here.

"We're looking at a lot of different options, and obviously we're a unionized town, as is New York. We'll be having those conversations with our partners in organized labor to make sure that everybody's walking on the journey at the same time, but we have to look at a variety of options," the mayor said.

But the mayor made it clear, everything is on the table if we see a surge of cases in Chicago.

We checked in with some of the departments she represents.

Chicago Police directed us to the Mayor's office and the city's Department of Public Health. There was nothing from the Chicago Fire Department.

The Chicago Public Schools said they are not now mandating vaccination, but they are encouraging it.

"CPS is not currently mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for employees. However, CPS continues to pursue all alternatives to keep our staff and students safe, including providing opportunities for vaccination at CPS sites throughout the summer. Although the vaccine is not required, it is a safe, highly effective, and strongly recommended form of protection to prevent severe illness and death from COVID-19 among all age-eligible persons. We will notify all employees if anything changes related to the COVID-19 vaccine."

Meanwhile, the Chicago Teachers Union weighed in with this:

"For the record, we can't comment on something that hasn't happened of course, but we have repeatedly called on Mayor Lightfoot and CPS to provide more vaccination programs for students, who make up the largest unvaccinated population our schools. We need a major expansion in student and community vaccination, but the mayor's CPS team so far is doing the bare minimum of engagement, and not the level of work needed to keep us safe in preparation for the fall. Once this outreach to students and families improves, we'll see better outcomes for all."

City data shows, almost 57.9 percent of Chicago's residents have at least one shot, while 50.42 percent of Illinois' residents are fully vaccinated.

We reached Gov. JB Pritzker's office and the state's public health department with the same questions. This was the response:

"The Governor continues to listen to the advice of scientists and doctors as he considers all possible avenues to keep the people of Illinois safe. During the previous pandemic surges, he was laser focused on ensuring that our health care system and hospitals weren't overwhelmed and that will continue to be his guiding light as he evaluates the need for mitigations.

"Vaccines have proven to be the single most effective way to prevent serious illness and death, and he encourages all eligible Illinoisans to get vaccinated. As private hospitals and employers move to mandate vaccination for their employees, the administration is also reviewing its options for mandating vaccines, particularly for state employees who work in congregate or health care settings."

Meanwhile Monday, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is now requiring its health workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. It is the first federal agency with a vaccine mandate for employees.


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