Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago said on Wednesday that all city employees will be have to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15. The action by the city, the second-largest in the United States to impose such a requirement, came as coronavirus infections continue to spread rapidly across the country.
The policy will apply to more than 30,000 employees, including teachers, police officers, firefighters and sanitation workers. Employees may apply for a medical or religious exemption.
“As cases of Covid-19 continue to rise, we must take every step necessary and at our disposal to keep everyone in our city safe and healthy,” Ms. Lightfoot said in a statement. “Getting vaccinated has been proven to be the best way to achieve that and make it possible to recover from this devastating pandemic. And so, we have decided to join other municipalities and government agencies across the nation, including the U.S. military, who are making this decision to protect the people who are keeping our cities and country moving.”
The Los Angeles City Council passed a similar vaccine mandate last week for the city’s nearly 60,000 municipal workers (the public schools there are not part of the city government). Los Angeles County and the city of Seattle have also adopted mandates.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced that teachers and other school employees will be required to be vaccinated, and other city employees must either be vaccinated or submit to weekly coronavirus tests.
The Food and Drug Administration granted full approval on Monday to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and older, making the vaccine the first to move beyond emergency-use status in the United States.
Ms. Lightfoot, whose administration has had a rocky relationship with major labor unions, is expected to face resistance from their members, particularly in the union representing police officers. She said on Wednesday that her administration was in conversations with labor unions to “create a vaccination policy that is workable, fair and effective.”
The Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago said earlier this week that it opposed a mandate and was awaiting more information from the mayor’s office.
Bob Reiter, the president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, which represents union members in Chicago and Cook County, said that while unions believe in the benefits of vaccination, “we do not believe punitive mandates are the right path to significantly increase vaccine uptake.”
“We believe this announcement may harden opposition to the vaccine, instead of protecting the workers who have sacrificed so much over the past 18 months,” Mr. Reiter said in an email.
Nearly 64 percent of Chicago residents age 12 and older have been fully vaccinated; nationwide, 60 percent of Americans 12 and older have been fully vaccinated.