Vax Pass: Chicago considering vaccine passports for entry to summer festivals, concerts, events

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago's top doctor says the city is moving closer to announcing a bigger reopening plan, and a vaccine passport is likely to be part of it.

The "Vax Pass" would give those who are fully vaccinated access to summer events in the city.

Officials have been urging vaccination as a way to protect yourself, your family, and your community. But now officials have a new message: the vaccine is your key to summer fun.

Similar to what New York State already has, the "Vax Pass" is an easy, secure way to show proof of vaccination for entry to festivals, concerts and other events.

"My goal at this point is to say, 'You want to be part of the fun? Get vaccinated,'" said Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago Dept. of Public Health.

The idea is to incentivize young people, in particular, for whom the standard public health appeal may not have resonated.

WATCH | Chicago could announce further reopening plans this week
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Chicago's top doctor said Tuesday the city is seeing positive signs in the fight against COVID-19 which could mean the return of summer activities and further reopening this week.



"Any incentive we can give is something we need. We're far short of having herd immunity at this point," said Prof. Craig Klugman, DePaul University.

But it's not without controversy. Some states have banned them and it could lead to a legal challenge, though there is precedent.

"Much like if you don't want to submit to a search when you go in to a Cubs game, of course you have to submit to that search," attorney Karen Conti said.

The city had waited to talk about the "Vax Pass" until supply had met demand. Now, most anyone can get a shot.

With the pause lifted on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the city is now using J&J for drive-thru vaccinations at Chicago State University, and for other sites, including the one run by organized labor.

Starting next week, the United Center will also switch from Pfizer to Johnson and Johnson. The city will also again roll out vaccination buses to administer shots along CTA routes - and there are other plans for the one-dose shot.

"You're also going to be seeing a lot more vans and tents and working to really bring vaccine to all of the events that make Chicago, Chicago in the summer whether that's some of the festivals or the block parties," Arwady said.

WATCH | Dr. Allison Arwady gives update on Chicago COVID cases, vaccinations
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Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday Chicago is averaging 548 COVID-19 cases and 4 deaths daily.



Arwady said the city is seeing positive signs in the fight against COVID-19, which could mean the return of summer activities and further reopening this week.

"I expect to sort of over just the next few days to be turning that dial and be announcing some additional reopening," Arwady said.

Chicago surpassed two million vaccinations and the city's test positivity rate has now dipped below 5% for the first time. New cases are also declining in all age groups, except for those over 80. The daily average is 548 new cases and the test positivity rate has dropped to 4.9%.

"We continue to see COVID cases out of every single zip code and community area in Chicago, so while we are making good progress on vaccine, we are not yet done with COVID," said Dr. Allison Arwady, Commissioner, Chicago Dept. of Public Health.

Dr. Arwady endorsed the CDC's move to relax outdoor mask requirements for those who are fully vaccinated and hopes it encourages more people to get their shots.

RELATED: CDC issues new outdoor face mask guidance for fully vaccinated people

"We're feeling confident about the way that we're going, but that is fully contingent on people continuing to make that decision to get vaccinated," Arwady said.

Arwardy stressed that the city's goal is to bring the vaccine to people.
"If you got a barrier, give us a call, we want to help get you vaccinated no matter who you are, nor matter where you live in the City of Chicago," Arwady said.

Chicago's vaccine hotline number is 312-746-4835. Tuesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Public Health announced request for proposals to establish Healthy Chicago Equity Zones which will focus on increasing vaccine uptake in neighborhoods most impacted by COVID-19.

They've allocated $9.6 million in COVID-19 relief funding from the Centers for Disease Control, according to a release. Funding will be divided among up to six regional lead organizations that will provide backbone financial, administrative, and project management support in each of the Equity Zones. The regional leads are required, in turn, to subcontract with at least one community organization in every neighborhood within their region to guide planning and action on local priorities, the release said.

"Community-based organizations have played an essential role throughout the pandemic, and their tireless efforts saved lives," said Mayor Lightfoot. "With Healthy Chicago Equity Zones, we are bringing new resources to local coalitions as they tackle COVID-19 and other longstanding public health challenges in their neighborhoods."
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