U.S. District Court Judge John Lee declined on Friday to immediately block Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker from requiring city and state workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Lee ruled that the 130 employees — most of whom are members of the Chicago Fire Department — were not likely to succeed on any of their claims, which included arguments that the vaccine requirement violated the right to free exercise of religion under the First Amendment.
“The court will not second-guess the informed and rational scientific and public-policy judgments upon which the city and state have based their vaccine and COVID testing policy,” Lee ruled.
Lee said he was bound by a ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit that upheld a requirement imposed by Indiana University officials that required students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as well as the ruling of the United States Supreme Court in 1905 in the Jacobson v. Massachusetts case.
In addition, Lee cited the 13-30 vote earlier Friday by the Chicago City Council to rebuff efforts by some alderpeople to overturn the Lightfoot’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The plaintiffs, represented by attorney Jonthan Lubin, can now ask the judge to issue a preliminary injunction in the case as part of the ongoing court case.
A Cook County judge is expected to rule Monday in a separate case brought by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, which also seeks to block Lightfoot’s vaccine mandate.
Lightfoot first ordered all 30,956 city employees to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15 but announced Oct. 8 that employees who were not fully vaccinated could avoid discipline until Dec. 31 by testing twice weekly for COVID-19 on their own time at their own expense.
Approximately 72% of all Chicago Police Department employees have disclosed their vaccination status to city officials, and more than 87% of Chicago Fire Department employees have disclosed their vaccination status, according to city data released Friday.
Every other city department had more than 92% of their employees disclose their vaccination status to city officials, according to city data.