Chicago to require customers to show proof of vaccination at restaurants, bars, gyms and entertainment venues – CBS Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) – Chicago restaurants, bars, gyms and entertainment venues that serve food or drink will have to start checking the immunization status of customers in the New Year, in the city’s latest effort to curb the spread of COVID- 19.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, and other city leaders announced new mitigation measures for the virus at City Hall on Tuesday.

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“We didn’t want to come to this, but given the situation we’re in, we just don’t have a choice,” said Lightfoot. “I know it’s frustrating and exhausting, but I’ll tell you what; we all have to put the armor back on. We must all do what is necessary to protect ourselves, our families, our livelihoods, our city. The last thing in the world I want to do is stand in front of you on a podium like this and announce that we are shutting down our city again. “

Restaurants, bars, gyms and entertainment venues that serve food or drink will need to require customers aged 5 and over to prove that they have been fully immunized, as of January 3, 2022. Customers will be required to provide a valid photo ID if they are at least 16 years old, as well as their vaccination record or a photocopy; or a digital record, or a printed record of their immunization status.

“To put it simply, if you’re living without a vaccine, it’s time for a change. If you want to live life as normally as possible, with the ease of doing the things you love, you need to be vaccinated in the city of Chicago starting Jan. 3, ”Lightfoot said. “This health ordinance can be inconvenient for unvaccinated people, and in fact it is inconvenient by design. We are entering our third year of life under this pandemic, with increasingly deadly variants continuing to increase. While we know that masking, social distancing, and vaccinations help stem the spread and severity of COVID-19 infections, this is what we need to do to keep our healthcare system from being overwhelmed by this news. wave. “

Individuals who have obtained a religious or medical exemption from vaccination by their employer will be exempt, but must show proof of the exemption, as well as proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the past 72 hours.

Are also exempt:

  • Customers who only walk into a business for 10 minutes or less to pick up an order.
  • Non-resident performers who do not perform or render services regularly in a covered location, or a non-resident individual accompanying such a performer, while the performer or individual is in a covered location at the purposes of this artist’s performance;
  • Non-resident professional athletes or non-resident persons accompanying such professional athletes, who enter a covered area as part of their regular employment for the purpose of competing professional athletes / sports teams;
  • Anyone under the age of 18 who enters a covered area to participate in an activity organized by a school or an after-school program offered by a preschool to grade 12 public or non-public; and
  • People who enter for the purpose of voting in a municipal, state or federal election; or, in accordance with law, assist or accompany a voter or observe such election.

Unvaccinated employees can test out of compulsory vaccination, according to the mayor. These employees must continue to wear masks when interacting with customers and provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test weekly.

Churches, schools, grocery stores, office buildings and residential buildings are also exempt from the proof of vaccination warrant, according to the mayor. However, restaurant sections inside grocery stores are not exempt.

The statewide mask mandate remains in place for indoor public places.

City officials have said businesses will be required to post signs regarding proof of the vaccination requirement. Lightfoot said city inspectors would check businesses to make sure they are complying with the new mandate and issue warnings if necessary. Repeated infractions carry the risk of fines or even closure orders from the city. Fines can range from $ 2,000 to $ 10,000 for violations of city health ordinances.

“I don’t want to have to go, and I think we should be past the point where we see people who don’t comply and try to put their profits ahead of the health and safety of their employees. But if we see that, then we’re going to knock the hammer down, without a doubt, ”Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot said the city was waiting until Jan. 3 to start enforcing the requirement to give businesses time to post necessary signs and come up with plans to check the vaccination status of customers.

The mayor said the new rules will remain in effect until the current wave of the pandemic is over.

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Other major cities implemented similar vaccination certificates weeks ago, and even months in some cases. For example, New York and San Francisco have required since August that customers show proof of vaccination at restaurants, bars and gyms. Los Angeles began a similar tenure in November.

But Lightfoot resisted such a mandate in Chicago for months. In September, a group of eight aldermen who sit on the city council’s health committee asked Arwady to require people to show proof of vaccination to enter indoor public places like restaurants, bars, theaters and public places. gymnasiums.

But Lightfoot rejected their letter, asking Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35e), who sent the letter to the mayor, “is there a reason why this letter comes from you and not from the chairman of the committee?” I’m just trying to find out whether this issue has been discussed through the health committee itself. Please advise.”

The new mitigation measures in Chicago come as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the city and across the state, and the Omicron variant has become the dominant strain of the virus in the United States

“There is no denying that we are in a fifth wave of COVID-19,” Lightfoot said. “To be clear, I haven’t been as concerned about COVID-19 since the early days of the pandemic in 2020.”

Chicago has recorded an average of 1,776 new cases per day over the past seven days, up 79% last week. Daily hospitalizations in Chicago rose 12% over the past week, while deaths rose 51%.

The city’s test positivity rate is 7.3%, up more than 3 points from a week ago, when the test positivity rate was 4.1%, and the dot higher in a year, according to Arwady. So far, the last time the city’s positivity rate was above 5% was in April.

Arwady said there were more than 2,800 new cases reported in Chicago on December 15, almost never in a single day. She expects the city to set a new daily record for cases over the next week.

“I expect we will see a slight decrease around Christmas and then a post-Christmas increase, just like we saw around Thanksgiving,” he added.

Arwady said the Omicron variant is much more contagious than the Delta variant, which itself is more contagious than the original strain of COVID-19. With cases increasing rapidly in the city again, she said it is likely that everyone in Chicago will know someone who currently has COVID-19.

“We are in the midst of the biggest wave of COVID we have seen since vaccines became available,” she said.

Arwady said the Omicron variant is clearly responsible for a large spike in Chicago cases over the past week. As of December 6, Omicron cases represented less than 1% of all new COVID-19 cases in Chicago, but now represent more than 73% of new cases.

And although the vaccines available are less effective at preventing infection with the Omicron variant than other strains of COVID-19, Arwady said the vaccines available still offer significant protection against serious illness or death from the virus.

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Arwady said while hospitalizations for COVID-19 are not as high as they were in the first two outbreaks of the pandemic, they are still higher than they were before the vaccines were released. readily available.

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