Chicago's possible new Vax Pass could provide vaccinated people with special perks and discounts throughout the area, the city's top doctor said Tuesday.
Coming in May, according to Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, the Vax Pass would give vaccinated individuals exclusive deals at summer concerts, driver's facilities and salons, among others.
"So certainly, as we build vaccine confidence and convenience, we're interested in thinking about ways to incentivize people to get the vaccine," Arwady said. "I would hope that for most people, their their main incentive is to be able to stay healthy, keep their families healthy, keep their communities healthy. But we also know, younger people in particular, may be excited about the idea of getting into events."
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Although she said non-vaccinated people will still be eligible to attend concerts this summer, those with the Vax Pass could receive limited access, along with other "incentives."
Arwady hinted that Chicago's popular Lollapalooza could be held this summer, following last year's virtual celebration, and offer deals for those who receive the COVID vaccine.
"I think of it as a as a way to celebrate people's vaccination choice," Arwady said. "It sounds like Lollapalooza might happen. So I'm not going to comment yet on the details of things that would be thought of for late summer. I think we are certainly, again, let me just say this, thinking a lot about people who are fully vaccinated and the opportunities for them to be able to do, you know, do certain things."
The city's new "Vax and Relax" campaign could also extend to barber shops and salons, giving people the chance to get a free haircut or discount on treatments, according to Arwady. She said vaccinated people could also be allowed to get a closer spot in lines at area driving facilities, grocery stores and laundromats.
She added that the city will follow new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on wearing masks outdoors, calling the changes "exciting."
The CDC revealed Tuesday that vaccinated people don't need to cover their faces anymore unless they are in a big crowd of strangers. Officials said a focus in the coming weeks will be on easing guidance for vaccinated people, both in recognition of their lower risk and to provide an incentive to get shots.
Arwady said she supports the decision, but noted that changes depend heavily on the future of vaccinations.
"The point here in everything as we're moving ahead is that when you are vaccinated, that is the big difference between whether you are at significant risk for COVID," Arwady said. "And so what's different about the fact that, you know, yes, we still have almost 550 new cases of COVID every day. That's high risk. In general, the way we've already thought about COVID it means that when you're gathering in a setting there can be a significant risk, but the thing that is different now is that that risk is completely bifurcated on whether it's a highly vaccinated setting. If you are in a highly vaccinated setting, if you yourself are vaccinated and the great majority of the people around you are vaccinated, the risk of you getting COVID, even with 550 cases in Chicago, is very, very, very, very, very low."
The CDC guidance says that fully vaccinated or not, people do not have to wear masks outdoors when they walk, bike or run alone or with members of their household. They also can go maskless in small outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated people.
But from there, the CDC has differing guidance for people who are fully vaccinated and those who are not.
Unvaccinated people — defined by the CDC as those who have yet to receive both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson formula — should wear masks at outdoor gatherings that include other unvaccinated people. They also should keep using masks at outdoor restaurants.
Fully vaccinated people do not need to cover up in those situations, the CDC says.
However, everyone should keep wearing masks at crowded outdoor events such as concerts or sporting events, the CDC says.
And the agency continues to recommend masks at indoor public places, such as hair salons, restaurants, shopping centers, gyms, museums and movie theaters, saying that is still the safer course even for vaccinated people.