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Lightfoot: Not the time to lift stay-at-home order, despite what Trump says about getting economy moving

The mayor said the decision to lift a shelter-in-place order depends on “us — not him,” referring to the president. “Pulling that now, in my view for Chicago, does not make sense at all.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot at a news conference in December 2019.
Mayor Lori LIghtfoot said Tuesday it’s up to local officials, not the president, to determine when it is safe to lift a stay-at-home order.
Sun-Times file

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday said this is not the time to lift the stay-at-home order — no matter how strongly President Donald Trump feels about the need to get the economy moving — and the decision will be made at the local level.

Lightfoot noted the CDC gives state and local officials “guidance” about what to do. They don’t issue mandates. Neither has the federal government.

“So when and how conditions on the ground in Chicago and across the state happen is gonna be dependent upon us — not him,” the mayor told reporters.

In Chicago and “in most areas” across the nation, there remains an “upward trajectory in the number of confirmed cases” of the coronavirus that, Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said, is likely to continue for some time.

“Pulling that [stay at home order] now, in my view for Chicago, does not make sense at all,” Lightfoot said.

“We put these things in place. They haven’t been in place that long. … It seems like dog years, [but] it was just issued last Friday. … There’s always gonna be a lag time between when we put these measures in place and when you start to see a difference in the arc of the virus and we’re not there yet.”

Trump has been talking openly about the virtual shutdown and about the need to get the economy moving again.

On Tuesday, he tweeted: “Our people want to return to work. They will practice Social Distancing and all else and Seniors will be watched over protectively & lovingly. We can do two things together. THE CURE CANNOT BE WORSE (by far) THAN THE PROBLEM!”

During a conference call Tuesday, Lightfoot said she cares about the economy every bit as much as the president does.

But, she said: “Our first responsibility is to make sure that we don’t lose lives.”

The mayor was asked specifically about the president’s claim that, if you don’t open up the economy, there will be as many people committing suicide as dying from the coronavirus.

On the telephone conference, the mayor replied: “If you can’t see us shaking our heads, that’s kind of the response.”

She added: “It’s unfortunate that we have a leader with such a large platform every day who is not careful about his messaging. And daily, as you’ve seen this cycle, somebody has to come behind him and clean up the mess. The problem is, people hear what the president says and they don’t hear the facts. And it’s really damaging to our country.”

Arwady added: “You would have to see quadruple the number of suicides before you would come anywhere near the bottom end of projections for what coronavirus is likely to have in terms of the impact.”

Inmates need public-health screenings before release, mayor says

Lightfoot also fleshed out her demand for public health screenings before inmates are released from Cook County Jail.

“We want to make sure there’s a warm hand-off into a social safety network for any individual who either has symptoms, has tested positive or, as you see from the court’s order on Monday, there’s a category of people that are gonna be considered for release that are clearly homeless,” the mayor said.

“We’ve done a tremendous amount of work ... to make sure we are building up a social safety net to be supportive of individuals in need. We want to make sure that those folks get connected up with those services as part of the release process. I just don’t want them dumped onto the street into a void and then showing up in an emergency room.”

More canceled conventions

The mayor was asked about the National Restaurant Association’s decision to cancel its giant meeting at McCormick Place, scheduled to bring 60,000 attendees to Chicago, filling restaurants and hotel rooms from May 16 to May 19.

It’s the biggest loss so far in an avalanche of convention and meeting cancellations.

Lightfoot acknowledged the impact, but denied it was a “body blow” to Chicago’s economy in general or her city budget in particular.

The mayor called the cancellation “understandable under the circumstances” and anticipates more of the same.

“I’m guessing that some of these contracts have trigger points that, ‘If you don’t cancel by this date, you owe us a lot of money.’ So I think that’s what we’re gonna probably start seeing with these May conventions,” she said.

“If you think about the populations of people who come into Chicago for these various conventions — they’re coming from all over the United States. All over the world. Many of those same places have stay-at-home orders. So no one would be able to successfully hold a large-scale event here when we’ve said to our own folks, ‘You need to stay at home.’”

Also canceled on Tuesday was the meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology; it had been scheduled for May 29-June 2, with 42,000 people expected to attend.

Contributing: David Roeder