Chicago-Area COVID Surge Leads to Hospital, Restaurant Worker Shortage

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As COVID cases surge across Illinois, hospitals and restaurants workers are feeling the pressure of statewide worker shortages.

Chicago restaurants like Steingold's Deli, Legend's and Middle Brow Brewery had to shut their doors for some time this week due to staff infected by the coronavirus.

"It all just happened so quickly that we thought we better shut down for a couple of days, just to reset, reassess our COVID policy," said Pete Ternes of Middle Brow Brewery.

In Cook County, health officials are encouraging restaurants and businesses to require proof of vaccination prior to entering the establishment. Ternes said he is in support of the recommendation and will begin the requirement this weekend.

"We would love it if they made it a requirement ," said Ternes. "I think that would allow us to operate more safely and a little more consistently. And it would remove or at least reduce the threat of closure."

The Illinois Restaurant Association, however, is opposed to the new recommendation.

"They don't want to be the vaccine police. That's why they're encouraging their customers and team members to be vaccinated and/or get the booster" said Illinois Restaurant Association head Sam Toia.

Hospitals have been also been hit by the worker shortage, as the state sends nurses to Rockford to aid in COVID treatment at health care centers. Illinois Department of Public Health said she is especially concerned about the coronavirus in the Rockford area.

"Hospital bed availability has reached a critically low level, demand on resources is high and the wait times in local emergency departments are very long," Ezike said in her address to Region 1, which encompasses several counties surrounding the Rockford area.

Ezike said that while the human toll of the virus has been explained repeatedly, the economic toll of yet another surge is also climbing.

"This virus is devastating the economic stability of our counties with the same intensity we have witnessed in human victims and the toll it has taken on families all across the region," she said. "Here in the northern Illinois Rockford region, hospitals are seeing COVID admissions rise at an alarming rate."

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