Mar 31, 2020
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot Coronavirus Briefing Transcript March 31
Kevin Graham: (00:00)
Patients that are going on in households, they are going on in large seven members homes, and they are concerned about their spouses. They’re concerned about their children. And so with this hotel in place, it is one thing less that they have to worry about. Our members are working long hours. They are looking out for the public safety and they’re putting themselves at risk. I can’t tell you how proud I am of all the members of lodge seven. And although there are still things that we are trying to work out, this is a great step in the direction that we need to be. And so I thank you. I know there was a question that somebody had, or do you want to take that later?
Lori Lightfoot: (00:46)
And so now, we will take any questions. I think you’re the poll reporter today. Yes.
Mayor, would you kindly just, so now we understand we have hotels for first responders and we also have other hotel rooms. Could you just sort of recap and break down those numbers?
Lori Lightfoot: (01:01)
Sure. So let me put it in context. Throughout this crisis, we’ve really been focused on three areas of high priority for us, making sure that our healthcare system has the capacity that is necessary to meet the surge that we know is going to be coming. So we’re closely monitoring every single day what the ICU rooms are, how many of those are occupied by folks who have the virus or are pending, under investigation. We also want to make sure that we’re supporting the healthcare workers because they’re also clearly on the front lines, and we’ve done a number of things to support them, but also our first responders. They literally run to danger in this time like no other.
Lori Lightfoot: (01:46)
So we want to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can to relieve the pressure on them and support them. And then of course we’ve been worried about and supporting our vulnerable population, our seniors, our people with underlying medical conditions and of course our homeless. Now when it comes to first responders and healthcare workers, one of the things that we put into place really last week was bringing online 2,600 hotel rooms. What those hotel rooms are intended to be, subject of today’s announcement, is a respite for people who have been in acute care or need to isolate themselves or quarantine themselves, but can’t do so safely in their homes. So we started with hotel 166, and again, big shout out to them. And we brought other hotel resources online. But we listened to conversations that we’ve been having with president Graham and also president Tracy and also frontline first responders who are, as both of these presidents have said, worried about the possibility of taking this virus home to their families.
Lori Lightfoot: (02:50)
And many of them are just like us. They have seniors in their homes, they have people with underlying medical conditions, and they are working tirelessly long hours. So in response to the things that we’ve heard from the different unions and individual members, we wanted to provide an additional support for our first responders. And that’s why I think this hotel really provides an incredible opportunity. Again, thanks to the Essex Group and the Oxford Group who are the leaders there. They’ve stepped up in a big way. I don’t want healthcare workers to think that we’ve forgotten about them. We’re going to be bringing online resources for them as well.
And speaking of supporting our health care workers, our healthcare system, where are we at with this stay at home order? Are you seeing or hearing of any more issues, in reference to the past press conferences I’ve attended with you, where you’ve had to sort of put that hammer down on the public?
Lori Lightfoot: (03:44)
Well, look, I don’t shy away from being tough and calling balls and strikes as I see them, but I’m really happy to report that since we’ve put in more controls, closing down the lakefront, closing down the river walk in the 606, we’ve seen incredible compliance for most parts of the city. We have a few issues that we’re working on with I think a comprehensive plan to help support areas where the police department is still seeing some challenges. But overall, the city has responded remarkably well.
I’ve got a couple of questions for my colleague, Kurt Wahl. Could you address the police board and their press conference tomorrow where they will name three finalists for the next superintendent? Are you committed to selecting from those three?
Lori Lightfoot: (04:31)
Well, I’ve got to see what the announcement is obviously, but that’s really up to the police board. And we’ll respond as soon as the names are public.
And one more from him. Also, has the pandemic impacted the summer antiviolence preparations? If so, how?
Lori Lightfoot: (04:48)
Well, they haven’t really impacted them. We started our summer planning back in January. Now obviously, we are very focused like a laser beam on making sure that we are responding to the immediate needs and challenges that this virus gives us every single day. But we fundamentally still are focused on the incredibly important mission of keeping our people safe, and that planning still continues. The work that we’re doing in neighborhoods all over the city I think is actually giving us helpful additional insights into what we need to be doing in thinking about the summer. But we’ll be ready for summer.
Speaker 4: (05:29)
We have a few questions from print and radio reporters. Mayor or president Graham, Ky Martin with NBC would like your thoughts about hundreds of sick calls from CPD officers, some COVID diagnosis and how that may pose a public safety issue.
Lori Lightfoot: (05:48)
Why don’t I start and then I’ll invite president Graham to come up? Look, the reality is this disease doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t discriminate by race, geography or otherwise. It’s not surprising that we’re starting to see confirmed cases among our first responders. We expected that to be true. But what we’ve done and we continue to do in partnership with the union is to make sure that we continue to take efforts to really keep our first responders safe. So we’ve had a great discussion last week about some practical things that we could do around roll calls, around police districts. But the critical thing that we’ve done and we will continue to do is make sure that we’re transparent about what we know, that we are getting our frontline first responders great training, and we’ll continue to do that. And then we’re being responsive to what we’re hearing where we can do more. And that’s what really came, that those conversations of what evolved into the announcement that we had today. President Graham, I don’t know if you want to add more to that.
Kevin Graham: (06:53)
Sure. I think part of the question was about the people who have called in sick, was that it?
Lori Lightfoot: (07:02)
Kevin Graham: (07:02)
Look, we have asked our members, if you are feeling ill, if you do not think you should be at work, be on the medical. There’s nothing wrong with that. Certainly if people are feeling ill, if they’re not sure, they should stay home, get checked out, and then as we’ve seen over the weekend, when people realize they’re going to be okay, they return to work. So a slight up tick in what we have asked them to do, there’s nothing wrong with.
Lori Lightfoot: (07:33)
And I want to underscore that I think president Graham was 100% right. We’ve been saying from the beginning of this virus, if you’re sick or even a little bit, you should stay home. That same applies to our first responders, our CTA transit workers, our sanitation workers, the people that we have designated as essential to providing services in the city. That rule still applies to them. If you’re sick, stay home. And I’m grateful that people are abiding by that.
Speaker 4: (08:02)
We have a few off topic questions for you, Mayor, from WGN Radio. New York received the USS Comfort as a hospital ship to offer treatment to non COVID-19 patients. Could we see a similar ship being deployed along Chicago’s lakefront to treat people here?
Lori Lightfoot: (08:18)
I don’t anticipate a large Naval vessel on the shores of Lake Michigan, but that’s why we are taking other steps to make sure that we have added capacity to help meet the challenge and the surge that’s going to come to our hospitals. McCormick Place is a perfect example of that. We’re working hand in glove with the state, with the Army Corps of engineers and Illinois Emergency Management to make sure that we get that alternative facility set up as quickly as possible so we meet the need.
Speaker 4: (08:50)
From Bloomberg, there are reports of state and local layoffs in other parts of country. Is Chicago considering cutting headcount and laying off workers given the expected decline in tax revenue and rising coronavirus costs?
Lori Lightfoot: (09:04)
No. We were not expecting to do any layoffs. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Our economy in this region is incredibly diverse. And if you look at how we have fared in other economic downturns, whether it was 911, the great recession of 2008 or 2009, we’ve had some impact of course, but we rebounded back very, very strong and well. For our city revenues, no one revenue stream is more than 13%, and what we call the economically sensitive revenue streams, none of them in the aggregate add up to more than 25%. I’m not going to sit here and say there’s not going to be some impact. There will be.
Lori Lightfoot: (09:44)
But I think we’re very well situated to weather this storm because we anticipated in our budget forecast for 2020 that we would experience in this year some kind of economic downturn. Now, nobody anticipated that it would be due to a pandemic, but we built the budget this year to be able to be responsive to that kind of worst case scenario.
Speaker 4: (10:08)
We have a few questions from Fran Spielman at the Sun Times. Is it your intention to name new-
Lori Lightfoot: (10:15)
Can we limit her to one? Sorry Fran.
Speaker 4: (10:18)
You heard it, Fran. Is it your intention to name a new superintendent at the virtual city council meeting on April 15th? If so, why?
Lori Lightfoot: (10:26)
Speaker 4: (10:28)
And the last two questions go to Kate.
All right. Just to clarify once more, just to make sure we have it correct, these hotels will be for first responders who are well but don’t want to be home? You’ve mentioned it’s a respite. I just want to make sure we have that correct.
Lori Lightfoot: (10:42)
Yeah, that’s right. So with this is, people who are sick, we’re going to make sure that they get the treatment that they need, in particular, first responders who are so critically important in this time of need. This is really for respite for them. As president Tracy said, and I think president Graham said, they’re working incredible hours and we all know that, and they’re worried about bringing the virus home to their families. And we want to make sure that they get a place that’s close for them to be able to just take a load off if you will, and be there, get respite and be ready for the next shift. So this is really to provide extra supports for them and really demonstrate that we are grateful for their sacrifice and service. And this is something that we are as a city assuming the financial burden for.
And Mayor, my last question, hopefully this puts a smile on your face. Those memes. I listened to you this morning and he had such a lighthearted response about it. Any comment for us on what you’ve been seeing and if you have a favorite one that you’ve come across?
Lori Lightfoot: (11:48)
Well there are a number that I that I like well. We’ve been having fun with it, my wife and my daughter and I, but look, I think this is a really intense situation and we all need to find the humor. And from humor stems hope. And I know from my experiences over my life that when you have hope, you can heal. Hope is the thing that gets you up in the morning and propels you over the course of the day, and we need that hope. We need to have that sense that even in this dark storm, there’s light.
Lori Lightfoot: (12:24)
And really I think to me what the memes say and the fun I think that people are having with them, and as you know, yesterday we launched our own PSA poking fun, but really emphasizing the importance of staying home to save lives, and the overwhelming response that we received, like with the response to the memes, means to me that people are hungry for something to hang onto, something that will take their mind off of the stress and fear that I think people are legitimately feeling in this time like no other in our lifetime.
Lori Lightfoot: (12:58)
So I’m happy to be my doing my small part to look out for our city because that’s what I feel every day. My job is to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make the city safe, that we’re being responsive to the needs of our residents, including our first responders, but also others who really just need to know their mayor hears them, sees them, and cares about them. And I want people to know that I’m working tirelessly seven days a week to make sure that we get through this and that we heal and that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you. Thank you all very much.
Speaker 5: (13:37)
Thank you everyone. Show on the road. [crosstalk 00:13:57]