CHICAGO - Chicago will require all city employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 15.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot made the announcement on Twitter, saying, "We must take every step necessary and at our disposal to keep everyone in our city safe and healthy."
Over 33,000 city workers will be included under the mandate.
"It's going to help us to get past this most recent surge and to protect those people that work within the city," said Dr. Susan Bleasdale, the medical director of prevention and control at UI Health.
Employees can apply for medical or religious exemption.
Meanwhile, the announcement comes with pushback.
The president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, John Catanzara, said the union is "100 percent against any mandate."
Catanzara told the Chicago Sun-Times Wednesday, "We're in America, (expletive). We don't want to be forced to do anything. Period. This ain't Nazi (expletive) Germany..."
His comments continued with references to Nazi atrocities. The Anti-Defamation League is now calling on Catanzara to apologize.
"The FOP President's comparison of mandated vaccines, with the, with being marched off to the death chambers in Nazi Germany is not only factually inaccurate, it's deeply offensive to the millions of people and their families who lost their lives during the Holocaust," said David Goldenberg, Midwest Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League.
At the same time, the President of the Chicago Federation of Labor, which represents more than half a million union members locally, said, "We believe in the benefits of vaccination to help protect workers and residents, but we do not believe punitive mandates are the right path to significantly increase vaccine uptake."
Jim Griffin, an employment attorney for HR Source, weighed in.
"Putting the union aside, a lot of employees are going to have to decide, am I willing to put my job at risk?" said Griffin. "Some might decide they're gonna quit over it."
The city says medical and religious exemption requests will be reviewed by the Department of Human Resources on a case-by-case basis. It is still unclear what will happen if a city employee refuses to comply.
"As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise, we must take every step necessary and at our disposal to keep everyone in our city safe and healthy," Lightfoot said in a statement. "Getting vaccinated has been proven to be the best way to achieve that and make it possible to recover from this devastating pandemic."
The mandate comes on the heels of the Food and Drug Administration granting full approval of the Pfizer COVID vaccine.
The city defines a fully vaccinated person as someone who is two weeks after receiving their final dose.
More than 70 percent of Chicago adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.