Starting Jan. 3, anyone age 5 and older will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination at Chicago’s public indoor spaces.
The mandate – which will affect bars, restaurants, gyms, entertainment venues and other places – is being enacted by city officials to try and curb rising omicron variant cases. Those 16 and up will also be required to show their ID for vaccine card verification. Those who are not vaccinated will have to show proof of weekly negative COVID-19 tests.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 71% of Cook County’s population is fully vaccinated, while the area’s test positivity rate is 7.6%.
Mark Liberson, owner of Andersonville’s Replay bar and restaurant, has required his patrons to show proof of vaccination since August. He said the vaccine mandate will help limit the spread of rising COVID-19 cases caused by the omicron variant.
“One reason why the [vaccine mandate] might be helpful is that it might restrict people from doing what they want to do unless they are vaccinated,” he said. “And, perhaps, we will have more universal vaccinations and fewer variants in the future. And hopefully less people getting infected.”
Melissa Ocampo, an employee at her mother’s restaurant Pozoleria Iguala in Logan Square, said her business will suffer because of the mandate.
“For us working with the [vaccine mandate] will be a little bit difficult because [some] people already do not respect the [mask mandate],” she said. “I am pretty sure people have a lot of opinions on the [mandate]. Some of them do not want to get vaccinated. It definitely does impact our small business.”
While they must follow the rules, “if it was up to us, we would not [enforce] a vaccine mandate because a lot of people are not vaccinated,” added Ocampo. “It will be hard, but we still follow the rules.”
Jeff Piejak, founder of Ultimate Ninjas Chicago in Albany Park, agrees with Ocampo. He said children along with parents who attend his gym will probably be absent when the mandate goes into effect. Piejak said 30% of his clients are voicing their concerns about the mandate.
“We have staff that have to be paid,” he said. “Our workers are counting on paychecks. When the volume [of clients are down] — not having enough children and [parents] in our gyms, it’s going to be a problem. And I hope [the mandate] goes away fast.”