Monday, January 17, 2022

Laurie Lightfoot contracted COVID after confronting teachers over precautionary measures

Chicago Mayor Laurie Lightfoot announced on Tuesday that she has tested positive for COVID-19, right after a battle with one of the nation’s largest and strongest teacher unions over precautions to contain the virus in the city’s public schools.

“Earlier today I tested positive for COVID-19. I experience symptoms similar to the common cold, but otherwise feel good, which I attribute to vaccinations and reinforcement, ”Lightfoot tweeted. “I will continue to work from home complying with CDC isolation guidelines. This is an urgent reminder to people to get vaccinated and strengthened as this is the only way to defeat this pandemic. ”

The irony that Lightfoot has access to testing and the ability to work remotely has not escaped the attention of members of the Chicago Teachers Union, who voted to move from face-to-face to distance learning last week. The rise in COVID-19 cases in Chicago has led to a severe shortage of staff in schools, as well as to the illness of children and families of both employees and students.

The union vote last week sparked an unpleasant standoff between the city’s teachers and the mayor, who is vehemently opposed to distance learning. Prior to the vote, Chicago public schools refused to implement measures outlined by the union to ensure a safe work environment, such as opt-out testing (which would give students automatic eligibility for COVID testing at school if parents or guardians did not opt-out). and improved contact tracing and metrics to trigger a district-wide distance learning transition.

After the vote, the school district blocked teachers from accessing their remote learning accounts, making it impossible for them to teach children. Eight Chicago public school students who spoke to TRiiBE said that while distance learning is difficult, they believe there should be no face-to-face classes as long as CPS refuses to take proper precautions.

In 2020, Chicago received approximately $ 1.2 billion in federal funds under the CARES Act to help fight the pandemic. Lightfoot has been criticized by activists and city councilors for using nearly 60% of the discretionary funds to pay police overtime. The city later received nearly $ 2 billion in federal aid as part of the American Rescue Plan, some of which community organizers accused the mayor of donating funds to pay off the city’s debt instead of helping residents and schools. The mayor’s office denied the accusations to the Chicago Sun-Times.

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

Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune via Getty Images

Less than 24 hours before announcing her positive COVID test, Lightfoot announced that the city had reached a preliminary agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union to allow some 340,000 students to return to face-to-face classes on Wednesday.

The tentative agreement includes the provision of KN95 CPS masks for staff and student use, in addition to medical masks and other facial protection that the district will provide by the end of the school year. Each school will have a contact tracing team made up of people from the school who already know the local community.

Most elected union representatives voted Monday to suspend their teleworking action to return to school buildings this week, while more than 25,000 union members vote to approve a preliminary agreement with the city.

According to the WBEZ, the preliminary security agreement is missing many of the key protections that teachers have sought. Lightfoot vehemently opposes a test-out strategy, so the union agreed to help get more students to participate.

“Remember, we didn’t fight to do something good a little better. We had a zero metric. The CPS CEO said he doesn’t think he needs an agreement with our union. The mayor was willing to sacrifice public health to protect his image, ”CTU President Jesse Sharkey said Tuesday.

“It’s unfair or unfair, but we had to fight hard to get even the basic protection that we forced the mayor to agree to,” Sharkey said. “And while that doesn’t match so many things that we and our students deserve, she didn’t want to give us any of it.”

“In the end, you saved real lives and protected real people last week through action itself,” Sharkey added, before quoting surge in COVID infection at the city’s public schools last week. “The numbers for last Monday and Tuesday show that.”

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