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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has accused city police officers who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine of “playing” with the public’s lives. Now, both parties are waiting for the other to blink as Friday’s inoculation mandate approaches.
In a video message this week, Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara urged his members to “hold the line,” telling officers not to report their vaccination status on Friday and instead flood the mayor’s office with exemption requests.
“It is the city’s clear attempt to force officers with a ‘chicken little, the sky is falling,’ into compliance. Do not fall for it,” he said.
In August, Lightfoot announced a vaccine mandate for all city employees with an Oct. 15 deadline, which hits Friday. Last week, she followed up, announcing that any employee who does not report their vaccination status by Friday will be placed on unpaid leave. Those who report that they are unvaccinated by then will have to get tested twice a week at their own expense.
She also specified that she is continuing to “bargain in good faith with the Fraternal Order of Police and the Policemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association to reach a fair and workable policy that will keep our first responders safe.”
The twice-weekly testing is only an option through Dec. 31, Lightfoot said. It’s unclear what will happen after that.
If the mandate is enforced, Catanzara threatened, “it’s safe to say the city of Chicago will have a police force at 50 percent or less.”
“Whatever happens because of that manpower issue, that falls at the mayor’s doorstep,” he said.
After Catanzara’s missive to the city’s police force, Lightfoot accused him of “doing a patent disservice to his members every single day.”
“John Cantazara says a lot of things, a lot of it offensive, and racist and foolish,” she said at a press conference Wednesday.
“It’s unfortunate that the FOP leadership has chosen to put out a counternarrative, but the fact of the matter is that if you are not vaccinated, you are playing with your life, the life of your family, the life of your colleagues and the members of the public.”
Unvaccinated people who catch COVID-19 are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized and 11 times more likely to die than those who are vaccinated, according to a September report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We don’t want to lose any more police officers for COVID-19 deaths when a lifesaving vaccine is readily available,” Lightfoot said.
As for Cantazara’s threat to file a lawsuit to fight the mandate, Lightfoot had a simple response: “Bring it.”