Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot joined Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D., ahead of the two-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 death in Chicago and the outbreak taking hold here.
They honored those whose lives were lost to the virus and recommitted the city to fighting the pandemic and addressing the racial health disparities the outbreak heightened, a press release noted.
Patricia Frieson, of Chicago's Auburn-Gresham neighborhood, was the first person in Illinois to die from COVID-19, on March 16, 2020. Her sister passed away just days later, too, and more than 7,500 other Chicagoans have died from COVID-related causes in the two years since. It was in mid-March 2020 that significant mitigation efforts were put in place in an effort to keep the virus contained, including a statewide "stay-at-home" order.
"It's been a long, challenging two years since COVID-19 first hit home here in Chicago," said Lightfoot. "Our healthcare and other front-line workers have been heroes, and I can't imagine what the toll would have been without them. But we have lost too many lives, including Patricia Frieson and unfortunately thousands more. So, this is a time to remember and honor them, and also to recommit ourselves to tackling the health and racial disparities that made this pandemic so devastating, especially in our communities of color."
Equity in vaccination continues to be a focus as communities of color, which have been disproportionately impacted by the outbreak, have consistently had lower vaccination rates. While nearly 82 percent of Chicagoans age 5 and up have had at least one dose of the vaccine, for Black Chicagoans that number is just 61 percent.
CDPH continues to offer free, at-home vaccination to everyone age 5 and older in Chicago. Vaccines are also widely available at pharmacies, doctors' offices, federally qualified health centers, pop-up clinics and more. People can call 312-746-4835 to make an appointment for at-home vaccination, or visit chi.gov/covidvax.
Lightfoot has also pushed back against pressure to lift the vaccine mandate against unvaccinated city workers.
According to NBC News, the mayor stated on March 14 that Chicago police officers and other city workers who have not yet reported their vaccine status will face consequences.
The city reported that 89% of its workforce is now vaccinated against COVID. According to the latest figures from the mayor's office, 2,367 Chicago police employees and 312 Chicago fire employees have not yet reported their vaccination statusleaving them at risk of being placed on no-pay status.