Lori Lightfoot gets COVID after deadlock with teachers over safety precautions

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced on Tuesday that she had tested positive for COVID-19, just after a battle with one of the nation’s largest and most powerful teachers’ unions over precautions for security to fight the virus in the city’s public schools.

“Earlier today, I tested positive for COVID-19. I’m having cold-like symptoms, but I feel great, which I attribute to being vaccinated and boosted, ”Lightfoot tweeted. “I will continue to work from home while following CDC isolation guidelines. It is an urgent reminder for people to get vaccinated and get boosted because it is the only way to beat this pandemic. “

The irony of Lightfoot having access to tests and the ability to work remotely was not lost on members of the Chicago Teachers Union, who voted last week to move from in-person to distance learning. . The increase in COVID-19 cases in Chicago has resulted in severe staff shortages in schools, as well as sick children and families of employees and students.

Last week’s union vote sparked a standoff between the city’s teachers and the mayor, who vehemently opposes distance learning. Prior to the vote, Chicago public schools refused to implement measures the union outlined for a safe work environment – such as withdrawal tests (which would automatically make students eligible for COVID tests at school in unless parents or guardians remove them), as well as better contact tracing and a metric to trigger a district-wide transition to distance learning.

After the vote, the school district excluded educators from their distance learning accounts, completely preventing them from teaching children. Eight Chicago public school students who spoke to TRiiBE said while distance learning is difficult, they felt there shouldn’t be in-person classes until CPS refuses to implement measures. appropriate security.

In 2020, Chicago received approximately $ 1.2 billion in federal funds from the CARES Act to help alleviate the pandemic. Lightfoot has been criticized by activists and city council members for using almost 60% of discretionary funds to cover police overtime. The city then received nearly $ 2 billion in federal aid as part of the US bailout, which some community organizers accused the mayor of having allocated to pay off the city’s debt instead of helping residents. and schools. The mayor’s office denied the allegation to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union listen to speakers at a press conference outside John Spry Community School in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood on January 10, 2022.

Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune via Getty Images

Less than 24 hours before announcing its positive COVID test, Lightfoot announced that the city had reached an agreement in principle with the Chicago Teachers Union to allow approximately 340,000 students to return to classes in person on Wednesday.

The agreement in principle calls for CPS to provide KN95 masks to staff and students in addition to medical grade masks and other protective face-covering equipment that the district will provide until the end of the school year. Each school would have a contact tracing team made up of people from the school already familiar with the community.

The majority of the union’s elected representatives on Monday voted to suspend their remote work action to return to school buildings this week as more than 25,000 union members vote to approve or not the tentative agreement with the city.

The interim security agreement lacks many key protections teachers seek, according to WBEZ. Lightfoot strongly opposed an opt-out testing strategy, so the union agreed to help more students register. And the mayor was against a move to trigger district-wide distance learning,

“Remember, we are not fighting to make something good a little better. We had zero metrics. The CEO of CPC has announced that he does not think he needs any agreements with our union. The mayor was prepared to sacrifice people’s health to protect his image, ”CTU President Jesse Sharkey said on Tuesday.

“It’s not fair or fair, but we had to fight so hard to gain even the basic protections that we forced the mayor to accept,” said Sharkey. “And although it fell short of so many things that we and our students deserved, she didn’t want to give us anything.”

“In the end, you saved real lives and protected real people last week just through the action itself,” Sharkey added before quoting. increased exposure to COVID in public schools across the city last week. “The numbers for Monday and last Tuesday show it.”

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Susan W. Lloyd