Post-pandemic recovery depends on ‘a whole new class of jobs’ to help people feel safe in public again, Lightfoot says
From mandatory temperature checks to contact tracing, Lightfoot said Chicagoans who have lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic could find new ones when the twice-extended stay-at-home order is finally lifted.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday she expects a “whole new class of jobs that didn’t exist before” to be created by the need to reassure people it’s safe to begin congregating in public again.
From mandatory temperature checks to contact tracing, Lightfoot said Chicagoans who have lost jobs during the coronavirus pandemic could find new ones when the twice-extended stay-at-home order is finally lifted.
“There are going to be a whole new class of jobs that didn’t exist before that are gonna be coming out of our thoughts about what recovery and opening up the city looks like,” the mayor said.
“There’s gonna be a whole category of new people that are gonna be working for businesses and buildings. Their job ... is gonna be making sure that people that enter those premises are well. … We’re gonna be able to ultimately employ more people because it’s going to be necessary for us to feel secure coming into congregate settings again.”
Will the new normal require everyone entering City Hall and other government buildings to have their temperature checked?
“We’re looking at a range of options — not just at City Hall, but in businesses across the city … to give people a confidence that they can return to congregate settings and make sure that we’ve got the resources — physically on site — to address any issues,” she said.
“Temperature checks ... [are] certainly one of the things we’re looking at. But we haven’t quite landed yet on what the bundle of options are that we’re gonna adopt at city buildings, including City Hall, and what we’re going to insist [on] as a bare minimum for businesses across the city.”
The mayor vowed to established those “minimum thresholds” in time for what she called a “slow, gradual re-opening, step-by-step” of a Chicago economy that has ground to a virtual halt and will remain so through May.
Earlier this week, City Hall unveiled a new web-based app Chicagoans can use to pre-register for a coronavirus vaccine, get text messages tailored to their symptoms and receive guidance about seeking medical care.
Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady acknowledged the app could ultimately be used as a technology springboard to do contact tracing and said asking registrants how many people live in their households was a “first step.”
On Tuesday, Lightfoot talked again about the conversation she had this week with the mayor of Hamburg, Germany.
The German government is working on a mobile phone app that will “collect information about who you’ve been in contact with, then automatically send out an alert” whenever that person tests positive for the coronavirus, the mayor said.
“That kind of technology would be total game-changer here,” Lightfoot said.
“But in the interim between where we are now and where we get to more technology,” contact tracing will likely require an army of people making calls and banging on doors.
Arwady said contact tracing is already part of the “case investigation” that occurs whenever someone in a long-term care facility or a homeless shelter tests positive for the coronavirus.
But the broader version of contract tracing likely required to re-open the Chicago economy could involve a “community health worker model,” she said.
Health Department epidemiologists could be paired with “folks from communities” that have borne the brunt of the coronavirus in “parts of the city where more people have the kinds of jobs that might take longer to come back,” the commissioner said.
“That’s all dependent on really seeing how some of those resources come down, particularly from the federal level,” Arwady said.
Also during Tuesday’s conference call with City Hall reporters, Lightfoot said she’s “hard at work” on plans for Chicago Park District camps and other summer youth programs and hopes to have guidance for anxious parents shortly.
But, under repeated questioning, she refused to pinpoint the size of the city’s budget shortfall caused by the pandemic.
“We’re not ready because we don’t know the full magnitude of the impact. We never want to put any numbers out and then have to dramatically change them because the world changes,” she said