Will Cook County follow Chicago and require proof of vaccination? Officials 'exploring' options
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday issued new rules effective Jan. 3 requiring people 5 and older to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to enter city restaurants, fitness centers and bars as well as sports and entertainment venues where food is served.
The move in Chicago is intended to tamp down a COVID-19 surge and keep businesses open without having to revert to a shutdown as in 2020, officials said.
"We're in the middle of the biggest surge we've seen since vaccines were available," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady said.
Will other leaders follow suit? Gov. J.B. Pritzker's office did not respond to a request to comment, but Cook County officials are leaning that way.
"We are concerned about the rapid rise in cases and hospitalizations in suburban Cook County not seen since 2020 and are exploring additional measures to control the spread of COVID-19. An announcement will be forthcoming, but not today," spokesman Thomas McFeeley said.
With the highly infectious omicron variant circulating, Arwady said "I do expect to see many more COVID-19 re-infections and breakthrough cases, but luckily the vaccines continue to protect very well against severe illness, hospitalization and death -- and even more so when people have also had a booster shot."
The Chicago locations soon to require proof of vaccine were chosen because they offer the highest risks for spreading COVID-19, Lightfoot said.
"Get yourself vaccinated. The vaccine is readily available," Lightfoot said. "The last thing I want to do is stand at a podium like this and announce we're shutting this city down."
Identification required will include official vaccination cards or records, "or a digital or physical photo of such a card or record, reflecting the person's name, vaccine brand, and date administered," city officials said.
Exemptions are offered for houses of worship, grocery stores, office buildings, kindergarten through grade 12 schools, and residential buildings.
Anyone will also be allowed to order items at food and coffee shops and leave, Lightfoot said.
"It is measures like this that limit the risk for people who are vaccinated in higher-risk settings," Arwady said. "It also tends to encourage vaccinations."
The move follows similar requirements by other cities.
In addition to getting vaccinated, how can you protect yourself against the latest COVID-19 onslaught? Here are some tips from experts.
• Consider double-masking, using a disposable mask as the first layer and a cloth mask for the second.
• Make sure your mask covers your mouth and nose.
• Wash your hands using soap and water for at least 20 seconds after you've been out or have sneezed, coughed or blown your nose. It's also recommended before preparing food, handling pets and touching your face.
• Avoid crowded or poorly ventilated indoor gatherings like parties.
• Get a COVID-19 test before and after holiday family gatherings. Some test sites are scheduled to be open on Dec. 24 and 25. For information, go to idph.illinois.gov/covid19/testing.
• Maintain social distancing from other people not in your household.