People going out to eat will have to bring in more than just their masks and wallets starting January 3.
The city of Chicago will start requiring customers and restaurant workers to also provide proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test. The new requirement will apply to anyone age five and older.
This new mitigation effort is aimed at stemming the spread of the omicron variant, which the CDC now says is responsible for 73% of all new COVID cases.
“I think it’ll make people feel safe,” said customer Larry Knight. “It makes me feel safer. So I would think there are a lot of like-minded people out there like me.
The “get tested” or “show proof of vaccination” requirement may indeed make more people feel comfortable going out to eat. But one restaurant owner is concerned that it could also have the opposite effect and further hurt their business.
“It is frightening thinking about how can this affect our business and even more than it already has, so it’s a little bit frightening. But on the other end of that as just a civilian of Chicago, right, it is comforting because with the omicron cases sweeping through the United States now, I think it gives people a sense of security that when you’re dining out you will be a little bit safer,” said Niki Flores of Chicago’s Pizza.
One restaurant owner said they are not against a vaccine passport. but it just adds another requirement for workers, which he called a “heavy lift”.
The announcement comes as Illinois reported the largest single-day increase of the year Monday, with 12,328 new cases. Health officials also said 60% of the state’s population is now fully vaccinated, as of Tuesday.
The recent surge comes just as large family gatherings and crowded airports could send numbers even higher.
Right now, there are nearly 4,000 patients with COVID in Illinois. More than 800 of those patients are in ICU beds, which worries some health care workers at Silver Cross Hospital in southwest suburban New Lenox.
“We are nearing our capacity but we do have contingency plans in place to add ICU beds if needed,” Dr. Atul Gupta, medical director with infection prevention at Silver Cross Hospital. “We’re hoping not to get to that point.”
In Chicago and suburban Cook County, availability is better. Across Will and Kankakee counties only 5% of ICU beds are available.
Test positivity rate in Illinois is now at 7.1%.
Stay tuned to ABC7Chicago.com and ABC7 Eyewitness News for more on this breaking news story.
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