Suburban Cook County to Require Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination

Individuals are issued a COVID-19 vaccination card when they’re vaccinated. (Kristen Thometz / WTTW News)Individuals are issued a COVID-19 vaccination card when they’re vaccinated. (Kristen Thometz / WTTW News)

Starting Jan. 3, all patrons ages 5 and up entering suburban Cook County restaurants, bars, gyms and movie theaters, among other venues, will need to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19.

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“Earlier this year, we had hoped that we were on a path to finally put the pandemic behind us,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said during a Thursday morning press conference. “But unfortunately, with the dual threat presented by the delta and omicron variants, and with cases, hospitalizations and deaths rising to new heights across Cook County, we must once again reassess and realign our strategies with what the science is telling us.”

Suburban Cook County is seeing 548 new cases per 100,000 residents and a test positivity rate of 7.8%, according to officials.

“We’re beginning to mirror what we saw a year ago with the surge seen last winter,” said Dr. Kiran Joshi, co-lead of the Cook County Department of Public Health.

According to officials, ICU capacity is at 10.8% bed availability.

“We’re concerned about impact the surge is having on our hospitalizations,” Joshi said.

Earlier this week, city of Chicago officials announced a similar proof of vaccination requirement would begin Jan. 3.

Restaurants, bars, breweries, wine tasting rooms, movie theaters, bowling alleys, hotel ballrooms and conference spaces, private clubs, concert halls and stadiums are among the venues covered by the order.

“All places where food and drink are served must require vaccination documentation,” said Dr. Rachel Rubin, co-lead of CCDPH.

Gyms, fitness centers, yoga and cycling studios, fieldhouses, health clubs and hotel fitness centers are also covered by the order. Fitness centers in offices and residential buildings that are limited to tenants and residents are exempt. Not exempt? “A party room where outside individuals will be participating,” said Rubin. “Then you’ll need proof of vaccination.”

Individuals can show proof of vaccination via their CDC COVID-19 vaccination card, an official immunization from where the vaccine was administered, or photos of a CDC card or immunization record. Apps that provide digital records of vaccinations can also be used, according to officials. Individuals 16 and up must also provide proof of identification, such as a driver’s license, passport or government ID.

Like the city’s order, there are exceptions. Houses of worship, schools and charitable food service establishments like soup kitchens are not covered by the requirement.

Individuals placing and picking up a carryout or a delivery don’t need to show proof of vaccination, nor do they if they stop into use a restroom, if the visit is kept to 10 minutes or less.

Employees of establishments covered by the order can opt out of vaccination by testing weekly for COVID-19, and employers must keep track of those who are unvaccinated and testing weekly, according to officials.

In addition, businesses must post signage at entrances about the proof of vaccination requirement as well as in visible locations within the establishment, according to officials.

Proof of vaccination – at this time – is defined as two weeks after receiving the second dose of a two-dose vaccine (either Pfizer or Moderna) or two weeks after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. However, officials are adhering to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s definition of fully vaccinated, which could change to include a booster shot.

Officials did not say how long the proof of vaccination requirement would remain in place.

“We’ll reevaluate the order on a weekly basis,” said Rubin. “As we see such a huge incredible rise and peak of cases we need to have mitigations in place, and also our hospitals are being stretched very thin right now. We need to see improvements – significant (improvements) – in lower cases each day … and (ensure) that our hospitals and health care facilities are not stretched to the limit as they are right now.”

State and county orders require masks in all indoor public places, unless someone is actively eating or drinking. The mask mandate remains in effect.

Contact Kristen Thometz: @kristenthometz (773) 509-5452  [email protected]

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