Starting Monday in Chicago and suburban Cook County, proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be required to dine indoors, visit fitness centers or go to venues where food and drinks are being served.
In announcing the requirement late last month, the city of Chicago said the policy was "in response to an alarming rise in COVID-19 cases both locally and nationally, driven in part by the omicron variant."
According to the new guidelines, those 5 and older must show proof of full vaccination, but anyone ages 16 and older will also need to provide identification that matches their vaccination record.
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In preparation of the new policy, the iconic Manny's Deli in the South Loop has put up new signs to inform diners.
"Obviously we understand that safety is very important, if that’s what the city deems as the most important thing for us to be doing right now, we’re going to go ahead and comply," owner Dan Raskin said.
The establishment has even hired staff members to check customers' proof of vaccination.
"We’ve instructed our staff to get people to have it ready for us at the end of the cafeteria line, and we’re just going to be asking people to be prepared and understanding and try not to take their frustrations out on our staff," he said.
The Illinois Restaurant Association delivered a similar message.
"...Throughout the pandemic, the industry has prioritized customer and team member safety above all else, and the IRA strongly supports vaccinations for everyone to mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Sam Toia, president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said, in part. "We encourage all diners to please lend their cooperation, respect and kindness to the employees working to comply with the new mandate during these challenging times.”
Health officials believe the requirement can help keep the soaring number of COVID-19 cases at bay.
"It’s only if we follow all of that good public health guidance that we talked about since the very beginning of this pandemic that we can all get through this," said Dr. Kiran Joshi with the Cook County Department of Public Health.
At Manny's Deli, Raskin is rolling with the punches and hoping for the best for his business.
"We’re going to keep pushing ahead and hope that people continue to come in, and we’ll survive this just like we have everything else so far," he said.
Suburban Cook County's proof of vaccination order - which includes all suburbs except for Evanston, Skokie, Oak Park and Stickney - calls for proof of vaccination in alignment with Chicago's mandate.
Even with the proof of vaccination requirements, masks are still required indoors in public spaces. Oak Park, Skokie, and Evanston plan to implement similar proof of vaccination rules.