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22 Dec, 2021 00:16

3rd-largest US city introduces intentionally ‘inconvenient’ vax mandate

3rd-largest US city introduces intentionally ‘inconvenient’ vax mandate

Only those who present proof of Covid-19 vaccination and ID will be allowed into Chicago bars, restaurants and gyms after the new year, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has announced, calling the mandate “inconvenient by design.”

Citing the surge in coronavirus cases in the largest Illinois city, the Democrat mayor said she had “no choice” but to impose the mandate, in order to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.

“If you wish to live life as normally as possible, with the ease to do things that you love, you must be vaccinated in the city of Chicago starting January 3,” Lightfoot announced on Tuesday. “This health order may pose an inconvenience to the unvaccinated, and in fact is inconvenient by design.”

Under the mandate, anyone over the age of five who wishes to dine indoors, work out at a gym, or visit a Chicago entertainment venue where food or drinks are served, will have to show proof of vaccination. Those 16 and older will also have to show a driver’s license or another form of ID that matches their vaccination record. 

Grocery stores without indoor dining sections, houses of worship, and restaurants and bars at Midway and O’Hare airports will be exempt from the mandate, as will charity kitchens, schools and daycare centers.

The order does not apply to employees, however. Establishments that wish to hire people who aren’t fully vaccinated will need to “ensure that those employees both continue to mask when interacting with patrons and provide proof of a weekly negative test” for Covid-19. 

This exemption was the product of lobbying by retail and restaurant associations, which also persuaded Lightfoot to postpone the mandate until after Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Illinois Retail Merchants Association President Rob Karr pointed out the mandate won’t apply to anyone entering an establishment for less than 10 minutes – such as people picking up carryout, making deliveries, or using the restroom.

It will, however, apply to weddings and private parties where food is served, Lightfoot said at the press conference on Tuesday. The order will be enforced with progressively stronger penalties. 

“I don’t want to have to go there. We should be way past that point where we see people... trying to put their profits over the health and safety of their patrons and their employees. And if we see that, then we’re gonna bring the hammer down. There’s no question,” she said. 

Asked if “more extreme” measures may be needed down the road, Lightfoot said that will depend on “the unvaccinated.”

“Our future is gonna depend upon whether or not they stop being hesitant and get the vaccine,” she said.

Alderman Tom Tunney, who owns three Chicago eateries, said the mandate will make things “more burdensome” and raise costs for restaurants already struggling with a staff shortage, but is better than a lockdown. 

“There’s no good coming out of this thing. But, given where we’re at and this latest surge, I guess it’s the prudent thing to do at this point. We certainly don’t want to be shut down,” he told the Sun-Times. 

About 20% of Chicago’s 7,300-plus restaurants have folded so far during the pandemic.