Lori Lightfoot gets COVID after standoff with teachers over safety precautions

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

“Earlier today I tested positive for COVID-19. I have cold symptoms but otherwise feel fine which I attribute to having been vaccinated and boosted,” tweeted Lightfoot: “I will continue to work from home while following the CDC’s isolation guidelines. This is an urgent reminder for people to get vaccinated and vaccinated because it is the only way to defeat this pandemic.

The irony that Lightfoot has access to testing and can work remotely was not lost on members of the Chicago Teachers Union, who voted last week to switch from in-person to remote learning. . Rising COVID-19 cases in Chicago have led to severe staffing shortages in schools, as well as sick children and families of employees and students.

Last week’s union vote sparked a showdown between city teachers and the mayor, who vehemently opposes remote learning. Prior to the vote, Chicago Public Schools had refused to implement measures the union had outlined for a safe work environment — such as opt-out testing (which would automatically make students eligible for COVID testing at the school). school unless parents or guardians refuse), as well as enhanced contact tracing and steps to trigger a district-wide shift to remote learning.

After the vote, the school district locked educators out of their remote learning accounts, completely preventing them from teaching children. Eight Chicago public school students who spoke to TRiiBE said that while remote learning is difficult, they felt there should be no in-person classes until CPS declines to implement measures. proper security.

In 2020, Chicago received approximately $1.2 billion in federal funds from the CARES Act to help mitigate the pandemic. Lightfoot has come under fire from 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 U.S. bailout, which some community organizers have accused the mayor of earmarking to pay down 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 during 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 his positive COVID test, Lightfoot announced that the city had reached a tentative agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union to allow approximately 340,000 students to resume in-person classes Wednesday.

The tentative agreement provides that CPS will provide KN95 masks for staff and students to use in addition to medical-grade masks and other facial protective equipment that the district will provide through the end of the school year. Each school would have a contact tracing team made up of people from the school who already know the community.

The majority of union officials voted on Monday to suspend their remote work action to return to school buildings this week as the union’s more than 25,000 members vote on whether to approve the tentative agreement with the city.

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

“Remember, we’re not fighting to make a little something good better. We didn’t have any measures. The CEO of CPS announced that he didn’t think he needed any agreements with our union. The Mayor was willing to sacrifice people’s health to protect its image,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said Tuesday.

“It’s not fair or just, but we had to fight so hard to get even the basic protections that we forced the mayor to accept,” Sharkey said. “And although so many things are missing that we and our students deserve, she didn’t want to give us anything.”

“At the end of the day, you saved real lives and protected real people last week simply through the action itself,” Sharkey added before quoting a spike in exposure to COVID in public schools in the city last week. “The numbers from last Monday and Tuesday show that.”

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Susan W. Lloyd