Chicago will require proof of vaccination at restaurants

Customers at restaurants, bars, and gyms in Chicago will be required to show proof of vaccination and photo ID before eating, drinking, and exercising indoors, but weekly testing will suffice. employees, under the mayor’s mitigation measures unveiled Tuesday to curb a winter wave linked to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

“We will not leave any options on the table when it comes to protecting the safety of our residents,” Lightfoot said at a town hall press conference.

“We didn’t want to come to this, but we just don’t have a choice. … This is what we must do to prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed by this new wave.

Lightfoot said she was not “as concerned about COVID-19 since the early days of the pandemic” due to a variant of Omicron that can “spread more easily” – three times more easily, according to the Health Commissioner, Dr Allison Arwady.

To those asking if “more extreme mitigations” will be needed, Lightfoot said “the answer lies with the unvaccinated.”

“The last thing in the world I want to do is stand in front of you on a podium like this and announce that we are shutting down our city. It would be devastating. I don’t want to have to take this step. But, it really depends on the unvaccinated, ”Lightfoot said.

“The unvaccinated affects the health, well-being and livelihoods of all of us. “

To avoid overcrowding restaurants and bars during the holiday season, the changes will take effect on January 3. the mayor was quoted as saying.

A graph showing the dominance of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus was presented at Tuesday’s press conference.
Pat Nabong / Sun-Times

Places of worship, grocery stores without an indoor dining area, and restaurants and bars at O’Hare and Midway airports will be exempt.

The same will apply to soup kitchens and other charitable food services, schools and daycares.

Rob Karr, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, described the town’s new policy as a “fairly measured approach” to the recent increase

Indeed, it will not apply to anyone entering an establishment for less than 10 minutes, for example to order or pick up take-out meals, make deliveries or use the toilets.

“It’s about taking off your mask or drinking or working out in a gym,” Karr said.

Lightfoot has agreed to postpone mitigation measures until Jan. 3 and exempt employees from compulsory immunizations at the request of Karr and Illinois Restaurant Association president Sam Toia.

Toia was determined to avoid exacerbating staff shortages of up to 25% at some Chicago restaurants that have already drastically cut service.

“Usually, in a dining room, a person waiting is like a four-table station. Right now they’re doing six or seven table stations. This is why people wait longer “for their food,” Toia said.

“If you lose more people, what’s the wait for a 10-table station?” It doesn’t happen. … you go out to eat for food. But you come back for the service.

Lightfoot said she was determined to curb the winter wave of coronavirus cases caused by the Omicron variant without forcing Chicago restaurants to re-close their dining rooms or reimpose capacity limits.

On Tuesday, the mayor announced his intention to do just that.

Proof of vaccination will be required before anyone over the age of 5 is allowed to dine indoors, visit a Chicago gym, or enter an entertainment venue where food or drink is served.

Only customers over 16 years old will need to provide a driver’s license or other identification document corresponding to their vaccination record.

Attendees at Lollapalooza in Grant Park were required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test before entering the music festival.

Attendees at Lollapalooza in Grant Park were required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test before entering the music festival. A similar requirement will apply from January 3 at select restaurants, bars and gyms in Chicago, although there are exceptions.
Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times

If restaurants, bars, gyms and entertainment venues hire workers who are not fully immunized, they will be required to “ensure these employees continue to both mask themselves when interacting with customers and to provide proof of a negative weekly test “for COVID-19, the states policies.

“I guess everyone in Chicago knows someone who has COVID right now because he’s in the midst of the biggest wave of COVID we’ve seen since before vaccines were available,” Arwady said. .

As of December 15, Chicago had 2,800 cases diagnosed in a single day. This is almost the highest daily workload since the start of the pandemic.

Over the next week to 10 days, Arwady said she expects the city’s daily record for new cases to be broken. But it may not be the pinnacle.

“I expect we will see a slight drop around Christmas. And then we’ll see a post-Christmas wave like we’ve seen around Thanksgiving. And our concern is that we now have a Delta surge with this additional Omicron surge, ”said the commissioner.

Chicago Health Commissioner Dr Allison Arwady at Tuesday's press conference.

Chicago Health Commissioner Dr Allison Arwady at Tuesday’s press conference. She said that thanks to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, “we’ll see an increase after Christmas, just like we’ve seen around Thanksgiving.”
Pat Nabong / Sun-Times

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), owner of Ann Sather’s restaurants, said enforcing a vaccine requirement for restaurant patrons “is definitely going to be onerous”. This will add “another layer of bureaucracy” and costs for restaurants “already thinking about cutting their unaided hours,” Tunney said.

But if the alternative is another indoor restaurant shutdown or higher capacity limits, Tunney said requiring proof of vaccination is “probably a happy medium.”

“There’s nothing good in coming out of this thing. But, given where we are at and this latest wave, I guess it’s the safe thing to do at this point. We certainly don’t want to be closed. It’s safe, ”Tunney said.

“I just hope we don’t have to do this for long. This will increase labor costs. You will need more than a host to verify IDs and cards. You add another administrative process and we take care of the customer relationship.

Many theaters and sporting events have required proof of vaccination for months.

Twice already during the pandemic, Chicago restaurants and bars have been forced to stop serving customers inside and move on to delivery. They were also forced to endure months of capacity limits.

About 20% of Chicago’s more than 7,300 restaurants did not survive the pandemic.

Yet another shutdown inside would only trigger even more closures, Toia said.

A vaccine requirement for restaurant workers could almost double that 20% closure rate, he said.

What about the issues of having to deny entry to unvaccinated restaurant patrons who ask to be seated anyway?

“We talked about it with the mayor and the mayor’s people as well. She said she would think about some sanctions that we could put in place if that is a problem. If someone gives someone a hard time at the door, ”Toia said.

Karr pointed out “all the negative interactions around the mask.” He urged city hall to help enforce the vaccine mandate if there is “significant resistance.”

“If someone just refuses to comply and causes a scene, hopefully someone will show up to help,” Karr said.

When questioned, Lightfoot said the health ordinance would apply to weddings and private parties where food is served and people remove their masks while eating and drinking.

It will be enforced using “progressive discipline”, starting with warnings and “notices to correct” the violation, just as it has done when it comes to enforcing capacity limits and the prohibition. to eat inside. Fines will follow. Closures will be a last resort.

“If we have repeat offenders and we have to shut them down, we’ll shut them down … If we see that, we’re going to drop the hammer,” she said.

Chicago test positivity rate is 7.3% – almost double the daily average of 4.1% last week. And the city records an average of 1,776 cases per day, up 79% from 991 a week ago.

Hospitalizations are up 12%, from 56 per day a week ago to 62 per day now.

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