Oak Park announced Friday all individuals over the age of 2 years old, regardless of vaccination status, are required to wear a mask in public indoor spaces, making it the first municipality in Illinois to enact such a measure.
Health officials issued the mandate after seeing a 750% climb in COVID-19 cases, increasing from 11 cases in June to 83 in July.
“It’s unfortunate that it had to go back,” said Q-BBQ restaurant manager Nick Coligan. “I feel like if vaccination rates were higher within Oak Park, and there wasn’t a rise in cases we’ve seen recently that we wouldn’t have to take the step backwards.”
The new requirement applies to all businesses, multi-family residential buildings, health care settings, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, shelters, congregate settings, government buildings and on all forms of public transportation, village officials said.
Many business owners and managers in Oak Park put up new signs reminding customers to mask up before entering.
“I know other suburbs are not taking it serious as Oak Park,” said EastGate Cafe owner Olya Dailey. “But it is what it is.”
Dailey said she loss 75% of business during the pandemic and can’t afford to take another hit.
“I have to follow the rules in order to be in the business and to have the door open,” she said.
Blocks away, Marilyn Hicks is doing the same thing to survive at her boutique.
“You have to get vaccinated and stay safe,” she said. “There’s nothing else you can do.”
She like many others hope people in Oak Park will comply with the order to protect themselves and their community.
“I think there are too many people who can’t as opposed to won’t get the vaccine right now,” said Christina Finn. “Kids under 12, people with compromised immunity and in their best interest to keep delta from getting into their life in a bad way. I can put a piece of fabric on my face and get over it.”
Village officials said people who choose not to comply could face a misdemeanor charge of reckless conduct. Businesses could also have their licenses suspended or face a possible shut down.