Vaccination proof, ID required to enter Chicago restaurants, bars, gyms

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Chicagoans will be required to provide proof of vaccination and a photo ID before entering restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues in the city starting Jan. 3, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has decreed.

Office buildings, airports and churches are exempt. Those with a religious exemption can provide a negative test, but the test option was not offered to those who chose not to be vaccinated.

Employees of those businesses will not need to prove they are fully vaccinated. They will be required to a wear masks when dealing with customers and provide weekly proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

Lightfoot said her new rules for Chicago businesses and residents come as necessary steps to curb the surge of coronavirus transmissions in the city.

“New steps must be taken to protect the health and well-being of our residents,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “This public health order requiring proof of vaccination to visit certain indoor public places is a necessary measure to ensure we can continue to enjoy our city’s many amenities as we enter the new year.”

The mayor told a city hall news conference her administration “will leave no options off the table when it comes to protecting the safety of our residents.”

Lightfoot’s proof of vaccination entry requirement will apply to:

  • Restaurants, bars, fast food establishments, coffee shops, tasting rooms, cafeterias, food courts, dining areas of grocery stores, breweries, wineries, distilleries, banquet halls and hotel ballrooms
  • Gyms, yoga, pilates, cycling, barre and dance studios, hotel gyms, fitness boot camps and other facilities
  • Movie theaters, music and concert venues, live performance venues, adult entertainment venues, commercial event and party venues, sports arenas, performing arts theaters, bowling alleys, arcades and card rooms

Schools, day care facilities, churches, airports and office buildings are exempt from the mandate. Chicagoans under the age of 5 are also exempt.

Business will not be required to check proof of vaccination if an individual is entering to order and carry out food, deliver goods or use the restroom.

Lightfoot initially voiced opposition to vaccination passport policies implemented by other major cities such as Los Angeles and New York, even dismissing an aldermanic proposal for a similar citywide mandate earlier this year.

But now Lightfoot says the city’s substantial transmission rates necessitate new restrictions. She said these rules will remain in place “through this Omicron-driven surge and the risk of overwhelming hospital capacity has passed.”

Chicago recorded an average of 1,776 new COVID-19 cases a day Dec. 21 – the highest in nearly a year – and a 7.3% city positivity rate, both up significantly from the previous week. Hospitalizations are averaging 62 a day, while deaths climbed to 10 a day.

The vast majority of these cases, hospitalizations and deaths are among the unvaccinated. Lightfoot said the answer to whether the city will pursue stricter mitigations in the future “lies with the unvaccinated.”

Nationwide, the more contagious omicron variant now makes up 73% of new COVID-19 cases, succeeding the delta coronavirus as the dominant variant in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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