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Coronavirus Chicago: Downtown hotel rooms set aside for first responders, Mayor Lori Lightfoot says

ABC 7 Chicago logo ABC 7 Chicago 3/31/2020 WLS
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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Tuesday that downtown hotel rooms have been set aside to provide respite for first responders on the front lines of the coronavirus.

Hotel Essex will be making available 274 hotel rooms for first responders. Mayor Lightfoot said the hotel rooms would be made available to first responders concerned about potentially coming into contact with coronavirus and want to be separated from their families.

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"This new resource is being paid as a direct response to things that we have heard from our first responders," Mayor Lightfoot said. "I have said repeatedly throughout this fight that we must do everything we can to be responsive to the needs of our heroes on the front lines of this fight."

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"This is really to provide extra support for them, and really demonstrate that we are grateful for their sacrifice," the mayor added.

The rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis and the Essex will provide them with meals and free parking. The rooms are not meant for first responders who need to be quarantined or be in isolation due to COVID-19 exposure.

"They're working incredible hours and we all know that, and they're worried about bringing it to their families," Lightfoot said.

"Everybody's got a different situation that they live with, whether they have young children or they have someone with an autoimmune deficiency, whether we have senior citizens, parents that we're taking care of," said Jim Tracey, president of CFU Local 2.

"It is important to our members that they do not bring the virus home to their family," said Kevin Graham, president of the Fraternal Order of Police.

The announcement came a week after the mayor's office announced multiple partnerships with other hotels, offering more than 2,000 rooms to provide spaces for people to quarantine or self-isolate.

Earlier Tuesday, the latest group of Chicago Fire Department paramedics graduated. Mayor Lightfoot and Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Richard Ford were on hand to congratulate the new paramedics. The 34 graduates came into the room 10 at a time to keep social distancing.

Coronavirus Illinois Update: Latest news on COVID-19 cases, Chicago area impact

"The COVID-19 crisis has changed everything - including this graduation - but it's also revealed just how important the roles of our paramedics are," said Mayor Lightfoot. "As this new class graduates today, they'll be put on the front line of this crisis that is entirely without precedent in our city. Chicago needs our first responders now more than ever; I want to thank each of our new paramedics for stepping up to serve that call."

The paramedics graduated weeks ahead of schedule as the Chicago Fire Department accelerated their training courses.

"The COVID-19 virus has forced us to maximize and leverage all of our resources, including recruits, in a way that we have never done before," said Commissioner Ford. "To our newest members - your bravery, professionalism and compassion starts as soon as you walk out that door. You will face long days, long shifts, and countless patients. You will be tested to perform expertly under pressure. This will be the epitome of 'trial by fire.' It is now up to you to provide the faith and that hope that Chicago and her people need right now."

The Illinois Department of Public Health has created a hotline at 1-800-889-3931. More information can be found at the IDPH website and the Chicago Department of Public Health website.

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