In a roundtable discussion with community news media yesterday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot implored the residents of Chicago to take the Coronavirus pandemic seriously and outlined the city’s plan to address the Coronavirus Pandemic.
“Early on, it became very obvious that we could not rely on the Federal Government to help us. Luckily, the City of Chicago is very well situated to respond to this pandemic. We regularly drill and practice, we have made sure that we consistently purchase equipment to have our local stockpile to be well situated to respond to an event like this. We are setting up our own testing sites and not waiting for the government to get its act together and bring testing. Our local hospitals are setting up negative pressure/quarantine rooms; the city is working on buying and leasing other facilities to supplement hospital beds that may be needed. We aren’t waiting on the federal government…we can’t.-Lori Lightfoot
The Mayor expressed extreme displeasure and frustration with the lack of corporation and communication from the Federal Government, particularly as it pertained to the chaos at O’Hare airport this past weekend. The Airport is under federal control, and when the President issued his travel ban, he never informed or consulted local mayors from major cities so they could plan effectively to handle the influx of travelers.
“The Federal Government has not been reliable to us throughout this process. We are still in dialogue with them. We would love to be in partnership with them. This is not a partisan issue, this is a crisis that requires leaders to stand up and lead, but we cannot wait for them as we see the federal government is not where we need them to be. They are not listening to us or inviting us into the conversation. It is a monologue that, in many instances, is untethered by the science and data. I think the failings of the Federal Government are obvious…we (The City of Chicago) have very little to no influence over what happens at the Airport. A lack of thoughtfulness around issuing an edict without thinking about what the implications would be, not talking to any of the local entities that would carry the brunt of this and issuing it and making it go into immediate effect without resourcing it properly”.-Lori Lightfoot
Mayor Lightfoot shared a graphic that showed the arc of the Coronavirus across the world, and that graphic indicated that the United States was on the same track as Italy. The data provided by the Department of Public Health required the city to take drastic measures to “bend the curve” to get ahead of this pandemic and avoid casualties in mass numbers, as seen in Italy. Based on the data provided countries Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland, UK, Italy, and the US were on the same trajectory as Italy except one. “Countries like Japan and Singapore implemented drastic measures to shut down things and were able to “bend the curve” in a way no other country on that list has.” Mayor Lightfoot used Japan as an example of these measures working to reduce the number of coronavirus cases.
“We shut down large gatherings, restaurants, and bars, and practice social distancing because we have seen what has happened in other parts of the world that were slow to respond to this pandemic. We are doing everything we can not to have that replicate here in Chicago and Illinois. ”
When asked how long this would last and if the city planned on shutting down completely, the Mayor indicated, the city was prepared for at least 60 days or longer. She stressed there were no plans to “implement curfews or Marshall Law, but she did state those conversations have taken place on the federal level. “That’s not who we are as a democracy. Acknowledging that Chicago is still in an upward climb as it pertains to this virus, the Mayor stressed this would take some time and would require every resident to do his or her part to help contain this virus. She also indicated there were no immediate plans to shut down popular summer activities such as Blues Fest, Jazz Fest, or Lollapalooza. The Mayor said, “We hope to see a turn in the arc of this virus long before these events happen, this is serious and people have to act with good judgment and common sense because we are trying to save lives.”
70% of CPS Students rely on CPS for Breakfast and Lunch daily. Mayor Lightfoot said CPS students who attended school yesterday would receive three days’ worth of food. In addition, they are working with the Chicago Food Depository to deliver additional meals to students and families to support them during the school closures.
City-operated Senior Living residences and centers have a “ pick up, and go service” to deliver boxed meals currently to seniors living in these facilities.
The Governor’s order is focused on “In restaurant” dining, meaning consumers can still pick up and have food delivered. The city is encouraging restaurants to keep their kitchens open so residents can pick up food or have it delivered. On Friday, Grub Hub announced it was waiving its service fees up to 100 million dollars nationally to encourage patrons to continue ordering and having food delivered.
Unemployment and SNAP Benefits.
The Mayor has asked for federal assistance in granting emergency unemployment for displaced workers who are affected by work stoppages. Also, the office is working to allow residents with SNAP Benefits to be able to order groceries online. Currently, SNAP Benefits cannot be used to order groceries online across the country. This is particularly important for seniors or homebound residents who are unable to go out to stores to obtain food. The Mayor’s office is working with Marianos, Jewels, Trader Joe’s, Save-A-Lot, and others to provide support to those particularly in food desserts who need access to groceries.
Utility companies have committed to a stoppage of utility disconnections and shut-offs due to non-payment for the foreseeable future.
Financial Relief for Residents
When asked about those who are taking unpaid leave from work but remain employed and unable to access unemployment benefits or those who do not qualify for unemployment benefits, the Mayor stated her team is currently working on a stimulus package to help all residents. While the city wants to provide a package on the city level, they admit they are in need of funds from the federal government. This number is well into the billions of dollars. The Mayor has also asked the federal government to grant emergency unemployment and SNAP Benefits to those in need. The Mayor urged all employers not to treat this as the status quo and to offer employees “grace” and grant paid leave, extended sick time, and telecommuting opportunities if available.
Small Business Relief
The Mayor expressed her desire to help small business owners impacted by this pandemic. On the local level, they are looking at ways to infuse cash to small business owners. The SBA grant loans starting at $350K. The city is working with banks and other agencies to provide opportunities for small businesses that need help below 350k. She hopes to announce information on this package later in the week. They are also working to reduce regulatory burdens on small business owners to delay collection and other fees that would be due on the city level and the State level.
When asked about the city’s plan to address the pandemic surrounding the city’s homeless population, the Mayor said they are working with agencies to offer supportive housing and food. In addition, they are working with medical personnel to address health concerns amongst the homeless population, many of whom already have compromised immune systems.
WHAT CAN WE DO NOW?
Know the Facts about Coronavirus
Although the number of Coronavirus cases in Illinois has risen, the Mayor stated that the majority of those cases have been mild, many not even requiring hospitalization. The majority of all coronavirus victims are fine after a 14-day quarantine. The Coronavirus is not an airborne virus. A virus spreads via droplets. There are practical ways to help limit the spread of this virus and “bend the curve,” so residents can resume normal activities.
- Stay home as much as possible
- Washing your hands
- Stay home
- Use Hand Sanitizer
- Practice Social Distancing
- Cough or sneeze into a sleeve or tissue
For more on the Coronavirus Pandemic, please visit www.chicago.gov/coronavirus. This website is updated daily, if not more, for the most up to date information.
-Danielle Sanders, Contributing Writer