With some flash and some social media, Chicago’s mayor battles COVID-19

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A gaggle of nurses from Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago share the moments which have made the lengthy, onerous days value it.

USA TODAY

CHICAGO – Wearing denims, a striped collared shirt and white sneakers emblazoned with the phrases MADAM and MAYOR on the heels, the 5-foot former prosecutor grooved to the syncopated beat as the primary lyrics rang out: Money on me, like I hit the lottery.

It is not the everyday picture for a big-city mayor. Particularly through the COVID-19 period.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday introduced Chicago’s first-ever citywide celebration of graduating seniors through a video of herself dancing posted to TikTok – the newest in a collection of viral social media posts that Lightfoot’s workplace has used to encourage residents to remain house amid the coronavirus outbreak. Greater than than 22,000 Chicagoans have been contaminated; 962 have died.

In an unique one-on-one interview with USA TODAY, the Chicago mayor talked in regards to the challenges of battling COVID-19 on the political entrance strains – and her private expertise of the outbreak.

Lightfoot, 57, the Windy Metropolis’s first black girl and first brazenly homosexual mayor, has gained nationwide consideration for successfully shepherding the nation’s third-largest metropolis by way of the disaster of a era. Her humor and iron-fisted resolve have offered each welcome levity and luxury for a lot of Chicagoans watching the town’s case rely creep upward.

However in a metropolis lengthy dominated by a historical past of machine politics and mayoral boses, critics warn that Lightfoot is capitalizing on the disaster to consolidate authority at Metropolis Corridor.

For the brand new mayor navigating an not possible scenario, the outbreak has meant three months of seeing the inequities inside her metropolis laid naked. It is been a disaster coloured by loss, resilience and a letter written in orange marker.

“I’ve a variety of feelings,” Lightfoot says. “Persons are stepping up in actually superb methods . . . However I additionally acknowledge that, simply as our energy shines by way of, the vulnerabilities that all of us knew about, that we have been engaged on for years – in reality many years – these are additionally flashing like a neon signal.”

Chicago has been held up for example of how the outbreak is disproportionately affecting communities of shade. The town gained nationwide consideration in early April when it reported that greater than half of its coronavirus sufferers and about 70% of COVID-19 deaths had been amongst African Individuals, although black Chicagoans make up simply 30% of the town’s inhabitants.

On the time, the town did not have details about the race or ethnicity of 1 / 4 of all instances. Wanting again on the few previous months, Lightfoot mentioned that is amongst her greatest regrets.

“Understanding the disparate affect is absolutely necessary,” Lightfoot mentioned. “I want we had demanded the demographic data compliance sooner.”

For hundreds of Chicagoans, these case counts aren’t simply statistics – they’re household, associates, nurses, medical doctors. For Lightfoot, it was a person she had met final yr who labored with at-risk youth.

“He had underlying situations, however nothing significantly severe, and was beginning to get better, then actually in a single day took a flip for the worst. It was surprising to me,” Lightfoot mentioned. “That he misplaced his life in that manner, it’s very painful.”

Lightfoot mentioned a observe that she acquired from a boy in her neighborhood has been giving her the energy to work by way of the ache.

“It was a really brief, candy letter, and he principally mentioned he was writing to thank me for what we had been doing within the metropolis,” she mentioned. “I’ve been carrying that round as a result of that meant a lot to me.”

The humor’s helped, too, Lightfoot mentioned. When the mayor closed down the town’s Lakefront Path on the finish of March, a local graphic artist photoshopped an image of Lightfoot, fingers clasped and stony-faced, into an image of the fenced off path.

“It actually simply type of took off from there,” Lightfoot mentioned. “We simply determined to take the second of humor to actually burn within the necessity to remain house and save lives. The extent of ingenuity of individuals on this metropolis actually is aware of no limits. It’s been very enjoyable.”

Memes of Lightfoot standing watch exterior homes, perched atop visitors lights, evident by way of rear-view mirrors, ordering Jesus again into the cave on Easter and extra have circulated on-line.

An Instagram account known as “whereslightfoot” has almost 60,000 followers. The pattern is so in style, it is turn out to be self-referential.

If she needed to decide, two memes stand out as favorites, Lightfoot mentioned.

“It was fairly early on, anyone did a Wheel of Fortune that mentioned ‘Keep the F*** House’ that I nonetheless take into consideration and giggle each time. It simply caught me and made me giggle,” she mentioned. “I believe the one which’s in all probability actually my favourite, there’s one the place – you understand the bat sign that beams up with my face? I type of really feel like that. I should be and hope I’m the guardian of this metropolis.”

Critics say they’re getting that message loud and clear. Final week, throughout a raucous Metropolis Council assembly over Zoom – full with shouting and expletives – aldermen criticized a proposal to grant Lightfoot’s administration emergency powers to make selections about COVID-related spending. Critics known as the transfer a “energy seize” by the mayor, who campaigned on rooting out corruption in Metropolis Corridor.

The ordinance handed, with 21 of 50 aldermen voting in opposition to the measure, together with a number of aldermen representing communities disproportionately affected by the virus.

Democratic Socialist Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa voted in opposition to the ordinance, saying that it didn’t embody oversight measures or ensures that the emergency {dollars} could be prioritized for hardest hit communities.

“We’ve been informed to belief this mayor,” Ramirez-Rosa mentioned within the assembly. “Right here in Chicago, we’ve seen the disastrous impact of after we belief the mayor to be Chicago’s sole decision-maker and authority.”

Echoing a critique of Lightfoot generally heard amid final fall’s 11-day trainer’s strike, Ramirez-Rosa mentioned that “on the subject of this mayor, you’ve got to place it in writing.”

“We can’t return to the instances of 1 mayor overseeing the whole lot and a rubber-stamp council,” mentioned Ald. Byron Sigcho Lopez.

As Lightfoot turns her focus towards a gradual reopening of the town, June 1 looms massive in her thoughts. Final week, the mayor put collectively a crew of native officers, enterprise leaders and activists to advise her on plans for restoration.

“To begin with, we’re going to be doing a change examine. We’re taking a look at uncovering the impact of COVID throughout plenty of sectors – financial, however what I name the social material, how this has impacted people, neighborhoods, communities,” Lightfoot mentioned. “The aim is to have a closing report by June 1. So it’s a dash.”

Lightfoot mentioned that along with a give attention to coverage and financial restoration, the duty drive plans to have working teams centered on regional cooperation and psychological and emotional well being. The teams had been creating a course of to get public suggestions, she mentioned.

“We need to assume very thoughtfully about what a staged reopening seems to be like,” she mentioned. “As a result of it’s not going to look the identical because it did in February, pre-COVID. It’s simply not. Not till we get a vaccine that’s viable. So it’s turning on the dimmer gentle and never flipping the swap.”

Learn or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/information/nation/2020/05/02/some-flash-and-some-social-media-chicagos-mayor-battles-covid-19/3068658001/

— to www.usatoday.com

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