Cook County Employees Will Have to be Vaccinated Against COVID-19 by Oct. 15, Preckwinkle Says

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle appears on “Chicago Tonight” via Zoom on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (WTTW News)Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle appears on “Chicago Tonight” via Zoom on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (WTTW News)

Cook County employees who report to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle will have to be vaccinated by Oct. 15, officials announced Friday.

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“Given the current state of the pandemic, Cook County will implement a mandatory employee vaccination policy to ensure that members of the public who interact with county employees and our facilities are safe when doing so, as well as to ensure the safety and well-being of employees while at work,” Preckwinkle said in a statement Friday.

The order covers all of the employees who work for the office of the president as well as those covered by Cook County Employment Plan, officials said.

Employees have until Oct. 15 to comply with the policy “or provide a verifiable medical or religious exemption,” according to the statement.

Preckwinkle said she would encourage “Cook County’s separately elected offices to follow suit.” Those officials include Sheriff Tom Dart, who operates Cook County Jail, and State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.

“This is the pragmatic and responsible thing to do as we work to put the pandemic behind us. Let’s come together and turn the page to the next chapter in history,” Preckwinkle said.

Chicago Public Schools officials announced Aug. 13 that all teachers and staff must be vaccinated by Oct. 15.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has yet to announce a vaccine mandate for Chicago’s 31,000 employees, even after telling reporters on July 29 that she was negotiating with Chicago employee unions and would have an announcement “shortly.”

New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and St. Louis officials have all announced city workers must be vaccinated in recent weeks as confirmed cases of COVID-19 have soared, driven by the more transmissible delta variant.

During an online question-and-answer session Thursday, Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said she and other city health officials were watching the experience of other cities that have imposed a vaccine mandate before deciding whether to impose one in Chicago.

A mandate could backfire and make those who have resisted getting vaccinated more reluctant, Arwady said, pointing to the experience in France where a requirement to be vaccinated to enter restaurants or performing arts venues triggered wide scale protests.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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