Suburban Cook County will join Chicago in requiring proof of vaccination for indoor public spaces like bars, restaurants and gyms in the new year, officials announced Thursday.
The new mitigation, which aligns with Chicago's mandate, begins at the same time as the city's, on Jan. 3, the Cook County Department of Public Health announced.
“Omicron is here in suburban Cook County, and it spreads incredibly quickly and easily, so CCDPH must take measures to contain the spread,” Dr. Rachel Rubin, CCDPH co-lead and senior medical officer, said in a statement. "We are concerned about how easily the omicron variant can spread among people, especially in crowded indoor settings. It is very important that we implement these measures to help lower the risk of transmission.”
The county's order - which includes all suburbs except for Evanston, Skokie, Oak Park and Stickney - calls for proof of vaccination for customers age 5 and older at indoor settings where food or drink are served, including bars, restaurants, entertainment venues, fitness facilities and more. Anyone 16 and older will also need to show identification matching their vaccine record.
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Fitness centers include places like health clubs, yoga studios, group fitness classes, recreation centers, and dance studios, the county said. Entertainment venues include movie theaters, concert venues, live theater and music spaces, sports arenas, bowling alleys and arcades.
The statewide mask mandate also continues to be in effect at these locations.
Under the vaccine order, businesses must display signage about the mitigations and develop "a written protocol with details for how they will check vaccine status and how they will enforce this order."
“These measures are temporary, and we hope they are in effect for a very short time,” Dr. Kiran Joshi, CCDPH co-lead and senior medical officer, said in a statement. “While there is so much that remains unknown about omicron, we do know that our healthcare system is being severely strained. We are implementing these measures to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and prevent severe illness requiring hospitalization.”
Cook County had already been urging such businesses to require proof of vaccination under a heightened mitigations recommendation issued last week as officials said the county is battling a rise in suspected omicron cases.
The first confirmed omicron variant case in suburban Cook County was reported last week in an asymptomatic person who was fully vaccinated, though it remains unclear if the person had received a booster shot.
Additional cases were expected as officials said there were other cases "being genotyped for omicron."
As of Thursday, the county said it its suburbs were seeing over 500 new daily cases per 100,000 residents and the test positivity rate is 7.8 percent as of last week. The ICU capacity is at 10.8 percent bed availability, officials said.
In Illinois, the number of omicron cases increased from 17 reported Monday to 71 as of Wednesday, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
At the same time, the state crossed several thresholds Wednesday, once again breaking the 2021 record for daily COVID cases and reporting its two millionth coronavirus case since the pandemic began.
According to IDPH, the state recorded 16,581 confirmed and probable cases of COVID in the last 24 hours, the highest single-day total so far this year.
The number is also the second-highest single-day COVID case number since the start of the pandemic, falling short of the 17,608 cases that were recorded on Nov. 5, 2020.