Chicago lifts mask mandate for fully vaccinated residents

Wednesday, May 19, 2021
Chicago lifts mask mandate for fully vaccinated residents
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Chicago lifted the mask mandate for fully vaccinated residents Tuesday. The hope is it will encourage more people to get their shots.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago will follow Illinois and new CDC guidelines to lift the face mask mandate for fully vaccinated residents, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady announced Tuesday. The hope is it will encourage more people to get their shots.

Arwady said that masks will still be mandated in all city of Chicago buildings. Masks will also still be required in all healthcare settings, schools, correctional facilities and on public transportation.

Arwady said the city strongly advises for face masks to be worn in indoor settings at places that are unable to verify vaccine status until the city reaches Phase 5 of reopening.

WATCH | Chicago announces it will lift mask mandate for fully vaccinated residents

That means indoor diners in Chicago can now order up without masking up, once they are two weeks out from their final vaccination shot.

"Really at this point, as you know, enforcement is a challenge," Arwady said.

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The city's new mask guidelines comes after a flood of complaints from businesses struggling to navigate how to determine who's really vaccinated and who's just saying they are.

"We're doing our best to kind of roll with the punches. In the meantime, we're still trying to provide as safe an environment as possible. But we're, we're not going to argue with guests that say they're vaccinated," said Scott Weiner, The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group.

For businesses that do check to see if all employees and customers are vaccinated there is an incentive: capacity and social distancing restrictions would be lifted.

Rick Walters, who works at Jake Melnick's Corner Tap, got his first Pfizer shot Tuesday at a mobile clinic put on specifically for restaurant workers.

"Helped me feel a little more comfortable being around people and, you know, closer, closer talking to people, you know obviously will still wear masks as staff," Walters said.

WATCH | 1st workplace vaccinations given out in downtown Chicago

But for businesses that can't or won't check vaccination status of customers, the city is urging a more cautious approach to masks.

"We continue to strongly advise, though not require, masking policies for all indoor settings in Chicago," Dr. Arwady said.

The announcement comes after Governor JB Pritzker announced Monday that Illinois would be following the new CDC guidelines on face masks, removing the mandate from people who are fully vaccinated.

Push to get Illinoisans vaccinated continues

Alivio Medical Center and Moe's Cantina partnered up to host a vaccination event for restaurant workers Tuesday and for anyone who needs a shot.

People like restaurant Manager Mike Sullivan hope everyone gets vaccinated.

"Until then, I think, at least in the restaurant industry, if you're working, unfortunately, we still have to wear masks, just to protect the people that are coming in that have not been vaccinated," Sullivan said.

For Joseph Lamonica, getting his shot with his 92-year-old mother is more important than ever.

"I think it's important," he said. "We should all get the vaccination and especially with everybody removing their masks right now."

Sam Sanchez, chairman of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said getting vaccinated is the only path forward, especially for his industry and his River North restaurants, hosting Tuesday's clinic.

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"We really believe in the vaccine. The doctors believe in the vaccine, and the science believes and our industry cannot go through another fall back and close again," he said.

Raquel Gallegos, a medical assistant with Alivio Medical Center agreed.

"It's obviously showing effectiveness. It's showing decrease in COVID, hospitalizations, fatalities, so the vaccines are working," she said.