With the city of Chicago averaging more than 1,700 new cases of coronavirus a day, health officials are imposing new proof-of-vaccination requirements, and business owners are preparing for the rules to take effect in the new year.
The new rules, announced Tuesday at a press conference with Mayor Lori Lightfoot, will require all patrons 5 years of age and older to show a proof of COVID vaccination in order to get into indoor dining establishments, including restaurants, bars, banquet halls and cafeterias.
The new rules will also impact gyms, dance studios and indoor recreational facilities, according to the mayor, along with movie theaters, music venues and other indoor entertainment venues.
Brendan McNeill, owner of D4 Irish Pub and Café, says that the new rules, while understandable, are going to pose a challenge to businesses that are already struggling with adequate staffing.
“It means at all times, we have to keep the door manned,” he said. “As it is, we’re having difficulty finding people to help us.”
McNeill also echoed the concerns of some business owners who worry that customers will take out their frustration on the new rules on employees who are trying to do their jobs.
“I think there is an element of concern,” he said. “They’re issues we’re just going to have to deal with, and I think it’s worth having to deal with them in order to ensure safety.”
The new rules come as COVID cases surge in the city. New daily case rates have increased by 500% since late October, and have increased by more than 85% in the last two weeks alone, with nearly 1,800 residents per day being diagnosed with COVID.
Add to that the increasing burden on hospitals and intensive care units, and city health officials say they were left with no choice but to act.
“We didn’t want to get to this point, but given the situation, we have no choice,” Lightfoot said.
Exemptions have been carved into the measure for houses of worship, grocery stores, both O’Hare and Midway airports, residential buildings, schools and daycares.
The measure will go into effect on Jan. 3, and while McNeill says he knows there will be challenges involved with the new mitigations, he is hopeful that the rules will make customers, and employees, safer and healthier.
“At the end of the day, it’s about trying to beat this terrible disease that’s going around, and I think the staff and the customers will feel safer,” he said.