Sep 20, 2021 - COVID
Chicago has highest COVID-19 case rates in city worker neighborhoods
Map showing dark blue zones in the northwest and southwest corners of Chicago.
Maps show COVID-19 positivity rates (left) are highest in two ZIP codes where the highest concentrations of Chicago municipal workers happen to live (right). Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

COVID hot spots have moved all over Chicago in the past 18 months, but in recent weeks, the highest rates have emerged in two ZIP codes on the far Southwest and Northwest Sides, according to city data.

  • 60655 covers parts of Beverly, Morgan Park and Mount Greenwood.
  • 60656 covers parts of Jefferson Park and Norwood Park.

The intrigue: These two ZIP codes carry two more distinctions:

Why it matters: Chicago taxpayers help pay health care bills for most city workers. And it costs about $20,000 to treat the average unvaccinated COVID patient in the hospital, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

  • Vaccination rates in the two ZIP codes are relatively low at 53% (60655) and 54% (60656) — compared to more than 90% in four downtown ZIP codes.

Driving the news: At least two major city worker unions (police and firefighters/paramedics) officially oppose Mayor Lori Lightfoot's mandate for their members to be vaccinated.

The Chicago Department of Public Health declined to comment on the COVID-19 rates in these areas. But the high number of positive cases and low levels of vaccination may be attributable to higher levels of vaccine hesitancy among Trump voters.

What to watch: Lightfoot has given city workers until Oct. 15 to get fully vaccinated, prompting the head of the police union to tell the Sun-Times that thousands may simply say "screw you, I’m staying home."

  • Expect a vaccine stand-off next month between Lightfoot and some city workers.

The big picture: Police unions from Los Angeles to New York City are pushing back against vaccine mandates. Some members of the Los Angeles police department have said they will request exemptions and have even filed a lawsuit in protest.

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