Orland Park

Some Cook County Communities Push Back Against Proof-of-Vax Requirements

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The day that Cook County health officials announced new requirements for customers to show proof-of-vaccination at various indoor venues, leaders in several suburban communities are pushing back against the mandates.

The new mandate will require customers at indoor venues that serve food and beverages, including restaurants, bars, movie theaters and other businesses, to show a proof of COVID vaccination before they will be allowed to enter.

The rules are similar to those enacted by the city of Chicago earlier this week.

In suburban Orland Park, Mayor Keith Pekau dismissed the new mandate as an “overreach,” and said that village officials will meet later this month to address the situation.

“I have a village of nearly 60,000 residents to answer to. I don’t need extreme politicians in Cook County government telling me what is best for Orland Park,” he said in a statement.

Pekau called the new mandate a “news dump,” and accused Cook County officials of letting politics guide their decision-making rather than data.

The new mandate comes as Illinois reported its single-highest daily increase in COVID cases, with nearly 19,000 cases of the virus reported over the last 24 hours.

Hospitalizations in the state are at their highest levels in nearly a year, according to IDPH data, and officials are defending the new vaccination requirements as a necessary step toward beating back the surge in cases.

“Earlier this year we had hoped we were on a path to finally put the pandemic behind us,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a statement. “Unfortunately, with the dual threat presented by the delta and omicron variants, and with cases, hospitalizations and deaths rising to new heights across Cook County, we must once again reassess and re-align our strategies with what the science is telling us.”

Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson, whose community announced earlier this year that it would not enforce state guidelines requiring masks in indoor spaces, said that the village would not enforce such a measure requiring proof of COVID vaccination.

"We need to learn to live with it, take precautions necessary, but we have to do without, one, scaring people and overreaching," he said.

Not all Cook County officials are on-board with the new regulations, including Commissioner Sean Morrison, who criticized the decision.

“If private sector businesses wish to institute a vaccination policy for their own business, that is their right,” he said. “However, I do not support government interference by mandating forced vaccination upon private sector businesses and their employees.”

The new mandate requires employees of indoor facilities to either be fully vaccinated against COVID, or to submit to weekly COVID testing as a condition of employment.

The measure will go into effect Jan. 3.

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