Cook County to require vaccinations at restaurants, bars and gyms starting January 3

Cook County, following Chicago’s lead, will impose a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for customers at restaurants, bars, entertainment venues and fitness centers starting January 3.

The county’s announcement on Thursday came as Illinois reported a single-day record of 18,942 new coronavirus cases. 78 other people have died of the disease, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The number of people hospitalized in Illinois with the virus, 4,271, is the highest for the whole year. And the average availability of intensive care beds remained at a low 11% statewide.

Under the order issued by the county health department, companies must require anyone 5 years of age or older to prove that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Fully vaccinated means they are two weeks away from their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson.

Booster injections are not currently required, but that could change if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changes the definition of “fully vaccinated” to include a booster injection, said Dr. Rachel Rubin, chief medical officer of the department of county health.

Businesses should also require customers aged 16 and over to present identification such as a driver’s license or school ID card with information that matches the vaccination card.

Employees must be vaccinated or show weekly proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

Exemptions will be granted to persons entering an establishment for less than 10 minutes to order and make meals, make a delivery or use the toilets.

“We need to do what is necessary to protect our communities … working closely with the city of Chicago,” Cook County Board Chairman Toni Preckwinkle said Thursday, noting that the city’s immunization mandate also comes into effect on January 3.

“There is no way to ensure 100% compliance. … I hope the vast majority will comply, ”she said.

The order immediately encountered resistance in the southern suburb of Orland Park, where Mayor Keith Pekau said he had no intention of helping enforce the order.

“This is unacceptable,” he said, noting that he believed county health officials had not made the case that bars, gyms and restaurants were a source of the spread of COVID- 19. “Business leaders have to make their own decisions. “

Complaints to county health officials about violations will either result in the complaint being referred to individual municipalities, which would “go through their own process,” or the county handling the complaint, in which case a district health inspector. county would follow up.

The county plans to work with the companies to resolve the issues, but repeat offenders could be referred to the Cook County State Attorney’s Office for an administrative hearing that could result in fines. In the case of “more egregious” violations, the county could also use the courts to request a temporary closure of a business while the case is resolved, a spokesperson for the health department said.

Asked about the possibility of companies facing sanctions, Pekau said: “We will deal with this when that happens. The county is failing to enforce its current auto hijacking and gun laws, who knows what they are going to enforce. They seem more interested in targeting restaurants than the real criminals. ”

Rubin said the county’s vaccination mandate will be reassessed every week and will not be lifted until there is a “significant” reduction in daily COVID cases and hospitalizations.

Rubin also urged companies to rethink the organization of large holiday parties before the mandate goes into effect.

County officials plan to host a webinar on Monday to answer questions from business owners about the mandate.

Not displaying correctly? Read the mitigation order.

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Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement