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Chicago's Top Doc Discusses Plans for Vaccine Pass for Summer Events

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Chicago's top doctor discussed Thursday how a possible new vaccine pass could impact summer events in the city.

During a press conference, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady clarified what the Vax Pas, potentially coming to the city in May, would mean for residents.

"People took this to mean 'I am going to need to show I am vaccinated to get into any restaurant in Chicago, this is going to be a requirement.' We are not talking about a vaccine passport here," Arwady said. "The Vax Pass concept is to really have activities and events that are incentives for people who choose to get vaccinated."

She added that there could be neighborhood vaccination events, where should residents choose to receive the COVID vaccine, they will get tickets concerts and events.

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A vaccine passport will not be required of Chicago residents, according to Arwady, but people are still encouraged to get vaccinated in order for the city to reopen.

"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 this week. "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."

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."

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.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday announced that the city will loosen its current COVID-19 restrictions as the city has both improved its metrics to reopen and increased vaccinations.

“Despite the unimaginable challenges that were thrown our way last year, we were still able to persist and come together to slow and stop the spread of this virus and put our city on the right path toward a safe reopening," Lightfoot said in a statement.

The new changes to the current Phase 4 guidelines include:

  • Restaurants and bars: Indoor capacity can increase to the lesser of 50% or 100 people.
  • Spectator events, theater, and performing arts: Large indoor venues, including the United Center, can now operate at 25% capacity.
  • Meetings, conferences, and conventions: Large indoor venues can now operate at the lesser of 25% or 250 people.
  • Places of worship: Large indoor venues can now operate at 25% capacity.
  • Festivals and general admission outdoor spectator events: Operate at 15 people per 1,000 sq. ft.
  • Flea and farmers markets: Operate at 25% capacity or 15 people per 1,000 sq. ft.

Under the new guidelines, some regulations remain in place, officials said, like the requirement to keep six feet of social distancing and that face coverings can be removed only in limited circumstances.

City officials also said Thursday that people who are fully vaccinated - 14 days after receiving their final vaccine dose - will not count toward capacity limits at private events like weddings. Officials said the city would consider expanding the exemption to other industries in the coming weeks if metrics continue to improve.

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