Chicago to Require Vax Proof at Restaurants, Gyms and Other Indoor Venues

'To put it simply, if you have been living vaccine-free, your time is up...'

(Headline USA) Chicago will require proof of coronavirus vaccination at restaurants, bars, gyms and other indoor venues, as the rapidly spreading omicron variant drives a spike in COVID-19 infections, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday.

Lightfoot said the requirement will take effect Jan. 3, and will apply to places in the nation’s third-largest city where food and beverages are served—including sport and entertainment venues—and fitness centers. It doesn’t apply to people getting takeout, who stay in a businesses for less than 10 minutes.

Lightfoot, who has garnered a reputation for ignoring her own mandates, claimed the measure was necessary because of a surge in cases and hospitalizations, with Chicago seeing numbers at levels similar to before vaccines were available.

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Many of the cases were likely due to an outbreak of the discernibly less severe omicron strain, which had seen only one reported US fatality as of Monday.

The variant is known to spread rapidly but with extremely mild, flu-like symptoms and what appears to be a much shorter lifespan than prior permutations like the delta variant.

Federal health officials announced Monday that omicron accounted for 73% of new infections last week, a nearly sixfold increase in only seven days.

On Monday, Illinois reported about 12,330 new COVID-19 cases—the highest daily total in more than a year.

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Chicago is reporting an average of more than 1,700 new COVID cases per day, up from about 300 per day just weeks ago, Lightfoot said.

“To be clear, I have not been this concerned about COVID-19 since the early days of the pandemic in 2020,” she said.

The mayor’s office said more than 60 Chicago residents are being hospitalized with COVID each day and an average of 10 are dying from COVID daily.

“The solution is vaccine,” Lightfoot claimed, although early evidence suggested that omicron was largely vaccine resistant and that booster shots might multiply the risk of contracting it.

Allison Arwady, Chicago’s public health commissioner, said 32.5% of Chicago residents age 18 and older have received booster shots.

Rob Karr, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, called the Chicago requirement a “reasonably measured approach.”

“It certainly is better than shutting businesses down,” he said.

Lightfoot said there would be a weekly testing option for employees who are unvaccinated, but no testing option for customers.

Proof of vaccination may be with a physical card, or a photo of the card. The requirement doesn’t apply to houses of worship, elementary and secondary schools, grocery stores and office or residential buildings.

Arwady said the requirement will apply to everyone age 5 and older, and that they must be “fully vaccinated,” which the CDC currently defines as two weeks after the second dose of the vaccine.

For people age 16 and older, a valid photo ID must be presented along with a vaccination card.

Lightfoot said city inspectors will monitor business compliance with the requirement.

Warnings will be issued to businesses not complying, but if a business repeatedly violates the rules, “we’re going to bring the hammer down,” Lightfoot said.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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