FOREST PARK, Ill. — The Cook County Department of Public Health issued Thursday a new mitigation order for suburban Cook County in response to the current COVID-19 surge of cases and hospitalizations.
The order calls for proof of vaccination for customers of indoor settings where food or drink are served, like restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues, and in fitness facilities. The order will go into effect Jan. 3.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a similar mandate for Chicago on Tuesday, requiring that people age 5 and older must show proof of full vaccination.
Suburban Cook County is seeing over 500 new cases per 100,000 population daily and the test positivity rate is 7.8 percent as of last week. The ICU capacity is at 10.8 percent bed availability.
Under the order, businesses must display signage about the mitigations at every entrance and prominently within the facility.
“Earlier this year, we had hoped that we were on a path to finally put the pandemic behind us,” said Cook County Board President Preckwinkle. “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 re-align our strategies with what the science is telling us.”
Fitness centers include settings like health clubs, yoga studios, group fitness classes, recreation centers, and dance studios. Entertainment venues include movie theaters, concert venues, live theater and music spaces, sports arenas, bowling alleys and arcades. Patrons in these facilities must remain masked and physically distant when possible.
Businesses violating these orders will be subject to inspection and possible fines for violations.
Some business owners and city officials WGN News spoke with say they will not be enforcing the mandate.
Dino Vlahakis is the owner of the Pickwick Theater in Park Ridge.
“You might as well tell everybody to close down, it would be a lot easier,” he said.
Vlahakis said his theatres seat hundreds of people and checking the vaccination card of every guest is simply not realistic.
“I don’t see how they are going to do it,” he said. “We are short on staff already as it is.”
Preckwinkle said starting Thursday that they would be providing plenty of support for business owners as the mandate goes into effect.
“We know this is not easy, but we also know this is a responsible and necessary step in the fight against Covid-19,” she said.
But some officials don’t think the new mandate is necessary. Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau released a statement saying in part:
Orland Park will continue to do what’s best for our residents rather than playing politics. We have followed the data and taken common sense measures to protect our residents and businesses without interfering with their rights. And it’s worked.
The mandate for suburban cook county is for individuals 5 and older… And is in addition to the mask mandate that remains in effect.