As officials explore their options to try to limit recent increases in coronavirus cases, some business owners are taking matters into their own hands, requiring customers to wear masks or even requiring proof of vaccination for their employees.
In northeastern Illinois, all but one county is currently experiencing “substantial” or “high” transmission of coronavirus, including Cook County. That means that the CDC has recommended that all residents, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks.
Some businesses don’t believe that recommendation has gone far enough, and are implementing their own ideas.
Donnie Biggens, owner of the Golden Dagger Coffee and Live Music shop in Lincoln Park, says that all of his employees are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
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“All of our staff has been vaccinated,” he said.
Chicago salon owner Ingmar James says that all of her employees, and all of her customers, will be required to wear masks, or to show proof that they have been vaccinated against the virus.
“I believe we have a responsibility to our clients,” she said.
The question of whether employers can mandate vaccines has been discussed at length in recent months, but in “at-will” employment situations, like those that exist in Illinois, the answer is clear: they can.
“Hey, you’re an employee at-will,” Chicago attorney Tom Glasgow said. “They can mandate anything for you as a private employer.”
Even large-scale national companies are adopting similar rules, with Google, Walmart, Facebook and more mandating that certain employees be vaccinated against the virus.
As those requirements spread to more places, some residents are still very much against getting the shots, and say they would seek employment elsewhere if their company decided to adopt the policies.
“I’m not gonna put that in my body,” one Chicago resident said. “Not gonna do it. I don’t like it forced on me.”