Lori Lightfoot

Vaccine Proof at Restaurants? A Look at What Officials Are Considering as COVID Metrics Rise

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As COVID metrics continue to rise in Chicago and in Illinois, what are officials considering to help slow spread?

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said while the state is continuously evaluating its options it already has "some of the most stringent mitigations."

"That is wearing masks indoors," he said during an unrelated event Tuesday. "That is what the mitigation regime needs to be get vaccinated wear a mask indoors, you know, please socially distance, especially if you don't know the people that you're with. I know that people are gathering during this holiday season, just be extra careful."

Pritzker did, however, encourage local authorities to implement more stringent mitigations as they see fit.

"I do encourage local officials based upon the, you know, the transmission rate and the infection rate in their local area to consider more stringent mitigations than what we have for the state," he said.

Chicago is among the regions considering added mitigations on its own as cases rise.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said this week that city officials are considering a variety of strategies and potential mitigations to help curb the spread of the virus.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said earlier this month that proof of vaccination for certain activities and public places could be on the horizon, but Pritzker noted that such mitigations are not being considered statewide.

"I've heard that that's something being considered by the mayor [of Chicago]. I also know that New York City is now requiring that, as I understand," Pritzker said. "That's not something we're doing at the state level, but again, I think at the local-level people should, you know, consider whatever mitigations will be most helpful for their local citizens."

Lightfoot, speaking to media on Monday, said that the city hasn’t “landed on one particular” strategy to slow down the spread of the virus, but that a variety of options are on the table.

“We are looking at a number of different strategies that can help us deal with this latest surge, but we always do that in partnership and in communication with the individuals and the businesses that are going to be affected,” she said. “We don’t unilaterally impose anything.”

Lightfoot and other public officials have expressed concern over the rising number of new cases both in the city and in the state of Illinois. Lightfoot says that the city reported nearly 1,000 new cases of COVID on Monday alone, prompting the discussion of potential mitigation strategies.

“We haven’t landed on one particular additional mitigation strategy versus another. Obviously, you see what’s going on across the country and the type of tools that are being used at the local level to help both mitigate the spread, but also to compel some unvaccinated folks to get vaccinated,” she said.

While Lightfoot has made it a point to rule out stronger measures, including complete shutdowns, she has also ruled out similar policies to one enacted in New York, which would require all private businesses to impose vaccine mandates for employees.

“We will not see that here in the city of Chicago,” she said earlier this month. “And frankly there’s a question of whether something like that is going to sustain what will invariably come as judicial review.”

Arwady said that the city would consider requiring more businesses and venues to institute vaccination mandates for guests and ticket-holders.

“Might we begin requiring proof of vaccination for more activities and public spaces? Yes, I think we might,” she said. “I certainly am more interested in that than I am in needing to do some of the major shutdowns.”

City sports venues, including the United Center, have instituted vaccine or negative test requirements for ticket-holders, but the idea is also catching on at some other businesses, including restaurants and concert spaces.

Even with those rules likely to grow in popularity amid upticks in cases, some city officials, including 35th Ward Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, are also considering other ideas.

“One option would be limiting the number of people that can attend a bar or restaurant. Capping it at 50% perhaps, or less,” he said.

For now, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has indicated that the main focus of his administration will be enforcement of currently-existing mask mandates, but he said he won’t rule out additional steps in the future.

“We’re looking at everything that has been done over the last few years, but what we’re really focused on is making sure that people are following the masking requirements indoors,” he said. “Thank you to all (residents) who are doing that.”

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