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Democratic mayors and governors are increasingly embracing a strategy of avoiding renewed lockdowns as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into its third year.
Despite generally enacting stricter lockdown rules than their Republican counterparts, some Democrat leaders are expressing reluctance to lock down again given the readily available vaccines, even as cases of the omicron variant are surging.
The changing approach was first noted by Politico.
Democratic Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, whose lockdown orders in 2020 urged Chicago residents to “cancel traditional Thanksgiving celebrations,” is now in a war of words with the city’s teachers union after they have resisted returning to work because of a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Lightfoot’s office filed an unfair labor practices complaint last week against the city’s teachers union.
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Two months into the pandemic, Lightfoot announced that police will issue citations and possibly arrest any resident who fails to follow stay-at-home orders aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19.
“We will shut you down, we will cite you, and if we need to, we will arrest you, and we will take you to jail,” she said at the time.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, D-Calif., and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose constituencies have seen strict lockdown rules in the past, have both signaled support for the Super Bowl taking place in Los Angeles despite the rising cases in both the city and the state.
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During an interview last month, Gov. Jared Polis, D-Colo., said “the emergency is over,” and placed the onus for potential infection on the unvaccinated.
Explaining how he prefers vaccinations to mask mandates, Polis said, “Public health [officials] don’t get to tell people what to wear; that’s just not their job.”
A recent Monmouth University poll showed that Americans across the political spectrum are wearied by the pandemic’s toll on their daily lives.
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“A year ago, most Democratic voters were ahead of where governors were, saying, ‘You’re not locking down enough,'” Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray told Politico. “Many of those people are now saying it doesn’t matter at this point, and what we’re seeing is governors reacting to that and acknowledging the mood of their own base.”
Former operatives from the Democratic Governors Association who spoke to Politico distanced themselves from some Republican governors, stressing that party leaders are still emphasizing safety precautions and vaccinations.
“You’re seeing a realistic acknowledgment of the frustration that people have with everything related to the pandemic,” said Corey Platt, a former political director to the Democratic Governors Association.
Fox News’ Nick Givas contributed to this report.