While Chicago is experiencing an unprecedented rise in COVID-19 cases, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Tuesday that she has been tested positive for the virus, which has given her infection as “an urgent reminder for people to get vaccinated and boosted.”
Lightfoot, whose tumultuous first period has been defined by her pandemic reaction, said in a statement that she tested positive earlier Tuesday.
“I experience cold-like symptoms, but otherwise I’m fine, which I thank for being vaccinated and boosted,” she said in a written statement.
“I will continue to work from home while following the CDC’s guidelines for isolation. This is an urgent reminder to people to get vaccinated and boosted as it is the only way to fight this pandemic,” she said.
Lightfoot, 59, last appeared in public for a news conference Monday night, announcing an agreement to return Chicago Public Schools students to classrooms.
The mayor sounded a little hoarse as he spoke without a mask during the 18-minute City Hall conference, which was also attended by CPS CEO Pedro Martinez and Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.
Arwady held another press conference Tuesday afternoon, which ended less than an hour before Lightfoot announced she had tested positive. A spokesman said Tuesday night that Arwady “feels fine and continues to take precautions such as masking and social distancing.”
“She will continue to monitor for any symptoms and follow the public health guidelines. The COVID-19 vaccines provide great protection against serious outcomes and she hopes people will use this news to be vaccinated and boosted,” said spokesman Andy Buchanan .
CPS officials did not immediately return messages to comment on whether Martinez was having problems or was planning to be tested.
The mayor’s office declined to say exactly when Lightfoot began feeling symptoms, how many people she had been in contact with, or whether other employees will take additional precautions.
Lightfoot’s communications director noted that the office follows the CDC guidelines for fully vaccinated and boosted people who are not required to stay home after close contact unless they develop symptoms. However, they are encouraged to be tested in five days, keep an eye on symptoms for at least 10 days, and wear a well-fitting mask when near others.
Lightfoot will now work from home for at least five days after a stalemate with the Chicago Teachers Union, where she refused to move on to a shift to distance learning, as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are at an all-time high throughout the city.
While the union had been pushing for a break in personal learning amid the recent rise in coronavirus until January 18, the Lightfoot administration has maintained that personal learning is essential for students who have already lost months of teaching time during the pandemic.
“I hope we get a stable, uneventful rest of the school year,” Lightfoot said Monday night.
Her COVID diagnosis is the latest twist in the city’s COVID-19 saga, which gripped Chicago about 10 months after Lightfoot took office. She has faced public setbacks from both ends of the political spectrum over the past 20 months, aiming for a balance between public health and economic well-being.
Critics have criticized her for being too cautious in some cases – such as when she kept limits on bar and restaurant services last year, and recently when she imposed a vaccine mandate. Others have turned on her for not being careful enough, including CTU leaders and those who questioned her judgment in giving the green light for Lollapalooza to return over the summer.
Now Lightfoot is among nearly a quarter of a million residents of Illinois who have tested positive for the virus over the past week, including an increasing number of elected officials. U.S. Representatives Bobby Rush and Sean Casten have both been tested positive, as has Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton.
Sends my best wishes for full and speedy recovery to @chicagosmayor.
I urge all Illinois residents to follow in the mayor’s footsteps and be vaccinated, boosted and tested – that’s how we end this pandemic. https://t.co/ne9b0CObTL
– Governor JB Pritzker (@GovPritzker) January 11, 2022
Governor JB Pritzker worked externally for most of last week after close contact with a COVID-19-positive government employee, but the governor himself has not reported having tested positive.
On Tuesday afternoon, Pritzker tweeted his “best wishes for a full and speedy recovery” to Lightfoot.
Officials have urged residents to be vaccinated and boosted as the highly transmissible Omicron variant causes more breakthrough cases. The vaccines have still proven to be very effective in preventing serious cases that require hospitalization.
Take good care of yourself, Mayor! May you recover quickly and completely.
Everyone, get vaccinated! https://t.co/e96cvrdV7L
– Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton (@LtGovStratton) January 11, 2022