Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announces COVID vaccine proof requirement

Announcement comes after Chicago declared requirement for a vaccine for restaurants, gyms

ByMichelle Gallardo and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Thursday, December 23, 2021
Preckwinkle announces Cook Co. vaccine proof requirement
Cook County COVID restrictions including proof of vaccination were announced by Board President Toni Preckwinkle Thursday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced Thursday new COVID restrictions that require proof of vaccination for restaurants, gyms and other businesses.

A Cook County Department of Public Health spokesperson said the new mitigations will be for everyone over the age of five and will go into effect on January 3. The proof of vaccination will be required at indoor spaces where food or drink are served to be consumed on the premises.

The announcement comes two days after Chicago announced a requirement for proof of vaccination for bars, restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues that serve food and drink.

"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. And the science is clear - it will take all of us to beat COVID; people of all backgrounds, ethnicities and faiths getting vaccinated and taking common sense measures to stop the spread of the virus."

Patrons 16 and older will be asked to show their ID to see that it matches their vaccine card.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announces new vaccine requirements for restaurants and gyms.

Officials said the requirement will be in effect for fitness centers, including health clubs, yoga studios, group fitness classes, recreation centers, and dance studios and entertainment venues, including movie theaters, concert venues, live theater and music spaces, sports arenas, bowling alleys and arcades.

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Businesses will be required to have signs at every entrance about the new mitigations and must create a written protocol for how they plan to check for vaccine status.

The order for suburban Cook County does not include houses of worship, schools, offices or charitable food services such as soup kitchens.

In some ways the country's mandate is stricter than the city; Cook County will only give exceptions to those with proof of medical exemption and a negative COVID test taken within the last 24 hours. Religious exemptions will not be honored.

Steve Palmer, owner of Palmer's Place in LaGrange, said he is supportive of vaccines and believes his customers are too. That said, he's uncomfortable and unhappy with the mandate though he said he will follow it.

"Do I have to put bouncers at the doors before you come in, or the waitress sits there and says 'I need to see proof of vaccination,' and you're the one person who doesn't," he said. "I don't want confrontation."

Next door, Classic Cinemas CEO Chris Johnson is getting to take over the now-shuttered LaGrange Theatre. Once they do, that will make three out of their 15 movie theaters that will come under the new rule. For him, it's all about staying open.

"This week was one of our best weeks ever, even pre-pandemic, so the idea of coming to a screeching halt is bad," he said.

"You're carded to come into drink in places, and I think New York City is doing a fine job with it, and I think the more protection we can have, the better it is for everyone," said Deborah Buckley, restaurant customer.

The new restrictions come as Illinois has seen a sharp increase in COVID cases, with 16,581 new cases reported on Wednesday.

SEE ALSO: Early indicators suggest omicron symptoms are mild, flu-like; more data needed to be sure

In suburban Cook County, officials said they are seeing 500 new COVID cases a day per 100,000 people.

Preckwinkle will be joined by Cook County health leaders for a virtual news conference at 11 a.m. to announce the new mitigations.