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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot knows there's 'COVID fatigue' in peoples' response to the virus. But letting your guard down now could be a matter of 'life and death,' she says.

  • Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot spoke to Insider on Thursday about her city's response to COVID-19. 
  • She admitted people have experienced "COVID fatigue" in recent weeks, but urged people not to gather on Thanksgiving. 
  • She said the decision not to gather for the November holiday is a matter of "life and death."
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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is concerned that people's decisions to gather for Thanksgiving next week could be an issue of "life and death" for residents of her city and around the country.

Lightfoot, who at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic drove around her city yelling at people to stay in their homes and posted memes encouraging social distancing on Instagram, recently issued a stay-at-home advisory in Chicago, urging people not to travel or gather for the November holiday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also urged people not to travel for Thanksgiving, and warned gathering with friends and relatives could spread COVID-19.

"We know from the data that the cases spread in these private settings, with people letting their guard down in their community, with friends and families," Lightfoot told Insider in a phone interview on Thursday. "We try to educate people about the risk inherent to those types of gatherings and hope that people understand it and are taking heed, because this is literally life or death."

'There's absolutely COVID fatigue,' Lightfoot says

Chicago currently has a seven-day rolling average of 2,393 positive COVID-19 cases per day — up from 1,856 per day last week — and a positivity rate of 15.5%.

The city is very much in its second surge of the virus, and alongside the stay-at-home advisory, Lightfoot has increased testing site capacities and contact-tracing resources, launched a grant program for restaurants and bars, and issued travel order and curfews to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"I think early on there was a lot of responsiveness, and we worked really, really, really hard to win the trust of our residents. But I think it's also true that nine months in, there's absolutely COVID fatigue," she told Insider.

"That's why we have tried to be extraordinarily transparent, candid in talking about the risks that we all face if we don't turn this new surge around and start flattening and bending the curve down, slowing the rate and the growth of cases, slowing the percent of positivity."

COVID-19 cases are spreading in communities across the United States. The country just surpassed 250,000 deaths from the virus, and hospitalizations have reached an all-time high.

Multiple vaccines are in the works from various laboratories in the US and around the world, but the impact of them likely won't be seen until 2021.

Lightfoot says precautions around COVID-19 have become 'political'

In the absence of the vaccine, people have had to use a number of precautions to keep safe from COVID-19, including social distancing, wearing masks, and regulating the size of crowds.

But a portion of the country has flouted COVID-19 precautions, refusing to wear masks on the grounds of personal freedoms, and urging businesses to open too quickly.

"This is a matter of federal public health and saving people's lives, but too much of that has been political," Lightfoot said. "And when there's a political fight over what should be clear-cut data and science, that undermines people's confidence in the government."

She said that like many other places in the United States, Chicago is facing an issue of fear and skepticism around the government and healthcare, though she hopes "education, communication, and outreach" will resonate with her constituents.

Moreover, Lightfoot told Insider she believes President-elect Joe Biden's administration will help dispel myths around COVID-19 that have been pushed by anti-maskers.

"That's certainly my hope," she said of Biden becoming president. "And we're going to keep pushing to make sure that happens."

For now, though, Lightfoot hopes people listen to her recommendations for Thanksgiving: Just don't gather.

"I'm hoping that people have taken the message to heart and I think many people have," she said. "So my hope is that we see people changing their behaviors for this holiday, so we actually have a possibility of enjoying family time at Christmas."

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