Dec 21, 2021 - Health

Chicago to require proof of vaccination at gyms, bars and restaurants

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Patrons will have to show proof of full vaccination to get into Chicago bars, restaurants, gyms and entertainment establishments that serve food or drinks starting Jan. 3.

Why it matters: More than a quarter of Chicagoans wouldn't currently qualify for entry under those rules. But at least one study shows the mandate could result in wider vaccination compliance.

Details: The rules apply to anyone over the age of 5, and anyone over 16 will need to show matching identification.

  • The rules do not apply to houses of worship, soup kitchens, K-12 schools or day care centers, but do include private weddings at licensed venues with food.
  • The new rules do not assign capacity limits to venues.

Enforcement: At a Tuesday press conference, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said businesses will enforce the mandate as they do in other cities like New York City and Los Angeles.

  • "Our restaurants and other venues are asking us to do this," Lightfoot said. "Not all are going to be happy, but I think most of them understand the necessity and they're on board with enforcing it."

Penalties: Establishments could be fined $2,000–$10,000 per violation.

  • "We usually first give them a notice to correct and we follow up the following day," Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection commissioner Kenneth Meyer said at the same press conference. "But if the business owner is not following any of these, we're going to write them up."

State of play: Chicago is seeing its highest COVID-19 hospitalization rate, intensive care usage and test positivity since January 2021, per health commissioner Allison Arwady.

  • Most of this, Arwady said, is due to the highly contagious Omicron variant, which now accounts for 73% of all U.S. cases "and in the Midwest, it's probably higher than that."

Zoom in: Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez said Tuesday he expects CPS to reopen on schedule, Jan. 3, but will consider closings on a "granular level, school by school and classroom by classroom" based on cases.

  • He said he's counting on the help of families to get kids vaccinated and to use the 150,000 tests CPS sent home.
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