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Lightfoot’s stern coronavirus message to stay home is exactly what city needs

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s grumpy brand helps Chicago in the age of COVID-19.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot
Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot
Sun-Times files

Grumpy. Gruff. Stern. Steely. Unrelenting.

All these adjectives aptly describe Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

She may not be someone you’d invite for a drink, even in these lonely pandemic times.

That’s a very good thing.

Like her predecessor, Lightfoot brings a tough, take-no-prisoners style. Unlike her predecessor, she doesn’t pretend to be soft and fuzzy.

She is pushing her citywide order with a stern, steely, unrelenting message: “Stay home. Save lives.”

This grumpy messenger is just what the doctor ordered, an antidote for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since Lightfoot was elected a year ago, she has repeatedly shown she does not play.

At her first City Council meeting, Lightfoot unceremoniously shut down 14th Ward Ald. Ed Burke, the fearsome clout king.

In November, Lightfoot gave retiring Police Supt. Eddie Johnson a warm, celebratory send-off. Weeks later, she turned around and fired Johnson before he could get out the door.

When the president of the United States does wrong, Lightfoot revels in vilifying Donald J. Trump via Twitter and national TV.

Now comes COVID-19, the nemesis of her lifetime. Lightfoot is conquering it by melding her don’t-play persona with playful humor.

Her messaging team deployed a brilliant PSA campaign. The whimsical videos show her at home baking, mimicking a jump shot, playing a guitar, all commanding, “Stay home. Save lives.”

Internet artisans eagerly joined in the fun, crafting countless memes that have been dominating social media.

They display the image of a grim-faced Lightfoot, garbed in a clunky suit, standing guard and scolding: “Stay home. Save lives.”

@Whereslightfoot on Instagram depicts her guarding our favorite spaces. She’s hovering near the massive staircase at the Field Museum. Doing sentry duty at a classic Chicago bungalow. In Boystown, perched on a light pole next to a rainbow pylon.

My favorite: Lightfoot is guarding the Easter morning tomb. An image of Jesus Christ pokes out of the tomb. Don’t even try it.

Lightfoot’s grumpy-grouchy magic is keeping us off the streets. It’s taking a big edge off these frightening times.

The memes, PSAs and media missives are a playful antithesis to her style and personality.

We are listening. On Wednesday, Lightfoot released data that shows Chicago is “bending the curve” of the deadly COVID-19.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that what we’ve done has made a difference in both the trajectory of these cases and in saving people’s lives,” she said.

She reminds us that Chicago’s resilience is sui generis.

Chicago has survived and thrived in crisis. The city was nearly wiped out by the Great Chicago Fire; plagued by the Spanish flu; assaulted by the Great Loop Flood; visited by blizzards, polar vortexes, deadly heat waves. We got this.

Lightfoot is Chicago’s first African American woman mayor. The first lesbian to run this city. She has lived her own brand of adversity.

You might want to get a beer with her. You might not.

These days, she might prefer a little scotch. But she has no time for that. She’s too busy making sure you stay home and save lives.

She’s not perfect. But Lightfoot’s steely, grumpy brand is the prescription Chicago needs in the age of COVID-19.

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