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Mayor Lightfoot says she has COVID-19: ‘I am experiencing cold-like symptoms but otherwise feel fine’

“I will continue to work from home while following the CDC guidelines for isolation,” the mayor said in a statement. “This is an urgent reminder for folks to get vaccinated and boosted as it’s the only way to beat this pandemic.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot attends a news conference at the Office of Emergency Management and Communications on the Near West Side in December.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot attends a news conference at the Office of Emergency Management and Communications on the Near West Side in December.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

As Chicago weathers an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Tuesday she has tested positive for the virus, casting her infection as “an urgent reminder for folks to get vaccinated and boosted.”

Lightfoot, whose tumultuous first term has been defined by her pandemic response, said in a statement she tested positive earlier Tuesday.

“I am experiencing cold-like symptoms but otherwise feel fine which I credit to being vaccinated and boosted,” she said in a written statement.

“I will continue to work from home while following the CDC guidelines for isolation. This is an urgent reminder for folks to get vaccinated and boosted as it’s the only way to beat this pandemic,” she said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot listens during a news conference in 2020.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot listens during a news conference in 2020.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

Lightfoot, 59, last appeared publicly for a news conference Monday night announcing a deal to return Chicago Public Schools students to classrooms.

The mayor sounded slightly hoarse while speaking without a mask during that 18-minute City Hall conference, which was also attended by CPS CEO Pedro Martinez and Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.

Arwady held another news conference Tuesday afternoon, which ended less than an hour before Lightfoot announced she had tested positive. A spokesman said Tuesday evening that Arwady “feels fine and continues to take precautions such as masking and social distancing.”

“She will continue to monitor for any symptoms and follow the public health guidance. The COVID-19 vaccines provide great protection against severe outcomes, and she’s hopeful people will use this news to get vaccinated and boosted,” spokesman Andy Buchanan said.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The district says Martinez “has tested negative via a rapid test and has also taken a PCR test with results expected in 24 to 48 hours. He is grateful to be fully vaccinated and boosted.”

The mayor’s office declined to say exactly when Lightfoot started feeling symptoms, how many people she’d been in contact with or whether other staffers will take further precautions.

Lightfoot’s communications director noted the office is following CDC guidance for fully vaccinated and boosted people, who aren’t required to stay home after a close contact unless they develop symptoms. They are, however, urged to get tested in five days, watch for symptoms for at least 10 days and wear a well-fitting mask whenever they’re around others.

Lightfoot will now work from home for at least five days after an impasse with the Chicago Teachers Union in which she refused to budge on a switch to remote learning as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations sit at all-time highs citywide.

While the union had pushed for a pause on in-person learning amid the latest coronavirus surge until Jan. 18, the Lightfoot administration has maintained that in-person learning is critical for students who have already lost months of class time throughout the pandemic.

“I’m hopeful that we’ll have a stable, uneventful rest of the school year,” Lightfoot said Monday night.

Her COVID diagnosis is the latest twist in the city’s COVID-19 saga, which gripped Chicago about 10 months after Lightfoot took office. She has faced public backlash from both ends of the political spectrum over the past 20 months while aiming for a balance between public health and economic wellness.

Critics have slammed her for being too cautious in some cases — such as when she kept limits on bar and restaurant service last year, and more recently when she imposed a vaccine mandate. Others have lit into her for not being cautious enough, including CTU leaders and those who questioned her judgment in giving the green light for Lollapalooza to return over the summer.

Now, Lightfoot is among almost a quarter-million Illinois residents who have tested positive for the virus over the past week, including a growing number of elected officials. U.S. Representatives Bobby Rush and Sean Casten have each tested positive, as has Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker worked remotely for most of last week after a close contact with a COVID-19-positive state employee, but the governor has not reported testing positive himself.

On Tuesday afternoon, Pritzker tweeted his “best wishes for a full and speedy recovery” to Lightfoot.

Officials have urged residents to get vaccinated and boosted as the highly transmissible Omicron variant causes more breakthrough cases. The vaccines have still proven highly effective at preventing severe cases that require hospitalization.