Dr. Arwady, thank you for your public health leadership

None of the emergencies we faced as Dr. Arwady’s two immediate predecessors compares to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Dr. Allison Arwady speaks on Nov. 22, 2022 before getting her COVID-19 bivalent booster at a CVS in West Lawn. Two of Arwady’s predecessors decry her firing in a letter to the Sun-Times.

Dr. Allison Arwady speaks on Nov. 22, 2022 before getting her COVID-19 bivalent booster at a CVS in West Lawn. Two of Arwady’s predecessors decry her firing in a letter to the Sun-Times.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

In the wake of Dr. Allison Arwady’s departure from the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), she should turn to the next chapter of her life knowing the deep respect and appreciation that we, along with innumerable residents of the Chicagoland region and the public health community across the country, feel for her and her team.

As Dr. Arwady’s two immediate predecessors as CDPH commissioners, we experienced our fair share of major challenges and public health emergencies: the threat of Ebola-infected travelers arriving in Chicago; the H1N1 influenza pandemic; numerous meningitis outbreaks; surges of opioid related overdoses; countless food-borne outbreaks; and contaminated vaping products. Each situation required staff throughout the agency to work long hours at a frantic pace on evenings and weekends, often missing time with and life events of spouses, children, elderly parents, and other loved ones for weeks and sometimes months.

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And yet, none of these emergencies required the magnitude of commitment, dedication, and sacrifice as the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more than three years, Dr. Arwady and the team she built came to work every day with a single-minded mission: to protect the health of Chicagoans, especially those most impacted by the pandemic. When should we wear masks? Who should get the first rounds of precious vaccines? What did schools need to keep students and teachers safe?

These were extraordinarily hard questions and there was no playbook for this pandemic. They used the best available information from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, scientists, and health care providers. They listened to and partnered with community members, alderpersons, and community partners to inform discussions with city officials and other agencies. They worked around the clock to communicate clearly, consistently, and with care to people living in the city and other parts of Illinois. In doing so, they became a trusted source of information and saved countless lives.

Dr. Arwady: Thank you for your leadership and for creating a public health team and department that are role models for the nation. Millions of Chicagoans and public health leaders across the nation owe you a debt of gratitude.

Dr. Julie Morita, CDPH commissioner, 2015-2019
Dr. Bechara Choucair, CDPH commissioner, 2009-2014

Migrants are not prisoners with a curfew

“Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...

In response to Terry Takash’s Aug. 16 letter to the editor, “Asking migrants to obey shelter curfews isn’t asking too much,” and his advice to seemingly “forget your culture, comply with our rules (even if we don’t),” I give you the famous words of Emma Lazarus.

He is forgetting a couple of short years ago when governors were trying to implement pandemic curfews and other means to save lives, many Americans said “no.”

The people seeking asylum are not prisoners. They came to escape an oppressive regime, or rampant violence, or overwhelming crime in their home countries. They probably did not count on an oppressive population who want them to comply, assimilate and be obedient.

People of other cultures don’t always have time on their minds. Being late is not a big deal. It’s expected for the most part. Being late for work is a different story. The immigrants here, if able to work, would be the hardest-working people you’ve ever seen.

America is not a country of rule-followers. If it was, we would still be bowing to the crown, there would still be “whites only” businesses and rest rooms, and women would not be in the work force. America is a melting pot, and most of the population is not indigenous to this land.

Mike Tafoya, New Orleans

Nonprofits should start planting trees

Recent articles concerned with tree loss in Chicago bring to mind a larger missed opportunity in much of out state, and on the bigger picture over our entire country.

As I drive Rte. 88 from DeKalb to Chicago, I can’t help but notice the miles-long stretches of divided interstate highways with nary a tree between them. That goes for off-ramps (cloverleafs, for example) that are also treeless. These areas are not within the city limits (they are either state or county property), but any help to the environment helps everyone on the grand scale. Surely there are nonprofit environmental organizations that can start the ball rolling with donations and volunteer workers to plant trees.

It may be a monumental task, but isn’t it worth it in the long run to start?

John Farrell, DeKalb

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