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Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot on battling coronavirus and gun violence in her first year in office

One year into her tenure as Chicago's mayor, Lori Lightfoot says she's fighting two pandemics.

"Obviously, the pandemic of COVID-19, but unfortunately gun violence in our city continues," Lightfoot told CBS News' Jericka Duncan. "It's particularly frustrating and challenging because you look at the fact that essentially our courts are closed, our jail is closed, the prosecutors really are reluctant to bring cases, and so our police department is really left as the only public safety actor, from a law enforcement perspective."

Despite strict stay-at-home orders from Lightfoot's office, gun violence in Chicago has continued. According to data compiled by the Chicago Tribune, 715 people have been shot in Chicago as of April 26, up 73 people from the same period the year before.

"All the other tools that we would use to support that public health infrastructure has been singularly focused on fighting COVID," Lighfoot said. "And at a time when — police officers are human like everybody else, they're worried about getting infected, they're worrying about taking that back to their homes, and so what our police department has had to do is really come up with some much more innovative ways to think about public safety."

But it's not just the police department that has had to get innovative in Chicago. Lightfoot said she knew she had to act when she saw emerging disparities in how coronavirus was affecting different neighborhoods.

As of May 19, more than 1,700 Chicagoans have died from COVID-19; nearly 75% of them were either black or Hispanic. That led Lightfoot to create Chicago's Racial Equity Rapid Response Team, a group geared toward helping communities of color fight the spread of the coronavirus.

"We want to make sure that, as we're bringing resources and engaging with communities in a hyper-local fashion, that we are also connecting up our folks to health care services," Lightfoot said. "What we were seeing is too many blacks, too many Latinx, going to the emergency rooms for the first time as their contact with the health care system."

Lightfoot said it was important for her to create such a task force — one of the first in the country — because of her personal connection to the community.

"When I first saw those numbers about how black Chicago was being disproportionately impacted, my first reaction was to think about my 91-year-old mother," Lightfoot said. "To think about my siblings who are all over 60, some of whom have these underlying conditions. It felt very personal to me."

Lightfoot's handling of the coronavirus pandemic is the latest in a list of challenges she's faced during her first year in office.

Last October, the Chicago Teachers Union went on its longest strike in decades, shutting schools for more than 300,000 students. And last December, Lightfoot fired Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson for what she called a "series of ethical lapses."

"I could've simply let him retire. I could've fired him quietly," Lightfoot said. "But I thought it was important to make sure that I sent a very clear message to the rank and file that no one was going to be above the law."

Chicagoans now know all too well Lightfoot's ability to send a clear message. Her no-nonsense approach to social distancing and self-isolation helped make her the star of several coronavirus memes, and it led to the success of several humorous PSAs centered around her slogan, "Stay Home, Save Lives."

"I'm leaning into what I think are ways in which we can communicate in different ways. It is not one size fits all," Lightfoot said. "In this otherwise really difficult, stressful time that's induced a lot of fear and anxiety, in my city, people are still finding a reason to smile and to laugh and have fun. And that's important. And if I contributed a little bit to that, then I feel very, very satisfied."

Listen to Jericka's extended conversation with Mayor Lightfoot on the "CBS This Morning" Podcast:

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