Chicago Mayor: Don't make me bring back the mask mandates, people

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Like many cities, Chicago has been seeing an uptick in new COVID cases as people return to a mostly normal routine without all of the government pandemic mandates restricting their activities. This has apparently alarmed Mayor Lori Lightfoot to the point where she felt the need to “get tough” on the residents of her city this week. She wants everyone to know that the virus is still out there and not enough people are volunteering to be vaccinated. And if the situation doesn’t turn around soon, she may have to reinstate all of those government restrictions to get it under control. She is trying to convince people that the only way to avoid returning to another version of shutdowns, masks and social distancing is to push the vaccination rates up closer to 90%. The city is currently far from that level and the number of new vaccinations being administered has slowed to a comparative trickle. (CBS Chicago)

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday warned that the city might be forced to reinstate some COVID-19 restrictions if more people don’t get vaccinated against COVID-19, as the highly contagious delta variant continues to spread nationwide.

“Part of why we’re here today is to emphasize to folks that we’re starting to see this uptick, and we want to get ahead of this before we see a second surge,” Lightfoot said at a City Hall press conference.

Lightfoot and Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said COVID cases have been increasing all across the United States in recent weeks, including in Chicago, as the delta variant is becoming the dominant strain of the virus.

During her remarks, Lightfoot didn’t actually invoke the phrase “mask mandate” but it was heavily implied. Also, the public Health Commissioner did come out and say the words in the context of saying “there is no need to implement a mask mandate for Lollapalooza” because the organizers are already requiring immunity passports to attend. But the clear implication was that mask mandates are back on the table unless the city falls in line and people start flooding the vaccination centers.

Lightfoot took the interesting approach of calling out two specific zip codes for their low vaccination rates. She singled out the 60621 and 60633 zip codes on the South and West sides for their failure to sign up for the shots. Interestingly enough, the South Side and the West Side are two of the largest minority neighborhoods, with the South Side being infamous for gang activity and higher crime rates. This tracks with national averages showing that minorities are still lagging in getting vaccinated.

I don’t know how much luck Lightfoot will have in terms of compliance if she tries to bring back the mask mandates. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m seeing a lot more messages like this one on social media lately coming from cities that are talking about the return of the masks.

Unless Chicago plans on trying to impose mandatory vaccination rules, it’s unclear how much more Lightfoot can do to get the numbers up. The city is already running a program where anyone can call a single phone number (312-746-4835) or visit a website and the city will send someone out to vaccinate up to ten people per visit at their homes. It’s free of charge and you don’t need a reason to ask, such as being disabled or not having a ride. They’re literally begging people to let them come to their house or apartment and get it done.

If the people don’t want to do it, they’re just not going to. And if she tries shutting down or significantly restricting the bars, restaurants, or other businesses again, I’m predicting that she’ll have an open revolt on her hands.