Aldermen insist on requirement for New York-style vaccines in restaurants and other public spaces

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CITY HALL – Aldermen on Thursday urged city public health officials to act faster on a possible vaccination requirement for high-risk public places, pushing for a mandate similar to the one that recently came into effect in New York.

The subject of a possible vaccination mandate for certain public places was discussed Thursday during a meeting of the city council committee on health and human relations, which included an update from Comm. Allison arwady on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chicago has an average of 948 new cases of COVID-19 per day, which is up “by almost 80% from a week ago”, although the number of tests fell last week, said Arwady to municipal councilors Thursday afternoon.

“But still, we are seeing a big increase,” said the top doctor in town.

Arwady also gave a brief overview of the new Omicron variant of the virus, which health officials said on Tuesday was detected in a Chicago resident, marking the first case of the rapidly spreading variant in Illinois.

With the presence of the new variant and the holiday season stretching, Arwady warned that “boosters are going to be more and more important.”

Compulsory vaccination in public spaces

Two aldermen, Ald. Michèle Smith (43rd) and Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st), compared the comfort they experienced or expect to experience in New York City, knowing that restaurants require vaccination to be able to dine indoors, attend theatrical productions and concerts, and use gyms . Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the mandate will come into effect on August 17 and stricter regulations for children should start next week.

“New York City is 10 percentage points ahead of us in adult immunization. Why? ”Smith asked Arwady at the start of the Aldermanic questioning at Thursday’s meeting.

Arwady told aldermen that New York has “done even more” than Chicago in implementing the vaccination requirements. “This has been true in the context of employers and has also been true in some of the gathering spaces etc.,” Arwady said.

Public health officials are actively discussing with restaurants, small businesses, and the city’s business and consumer affairs department about a vaccination – or negative test requirement – in “high-pressure environments.” risk where masks need to be removed “during outbreaks of COVID-19 cases, Arwady said.

“It’s not a decision that’s been made at this point, but it’s one of the things we’ve seen help move that needle across the country and around the world,” Arwady said, adding that vaccine requirements have proven to be effective in cities. wait, including New Orleans.

At a press conference earlier this week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot rejected the idea of ​​a New York-style vaccine mandate for employers.

“We won’t see that anytime soon in Chicago. And frankly [there’s] a question of whether or not it will last when a judicial review invariably comes, “Lightfoot told reporters, adding that she” encourages employers of all types to make sure they are doing everything possible to maximize safety in their workplace like us. did with the vaccine warrant.

The mayor said she was “encouraged” by restaurants, bars and sporting stadiums in Chicago that require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter. “The safest tool we know of to maximize safety is for people to get vaccinated,” Lightfoot said. “We will continue to send this message home. ”

Smith acknowledged that the vaccine requirement was difficult for New York’s restaurant industry, but said her experience as a tourist in the nation’s largest city was safer than the time she had. moved to Detroit, where she said people didn’t wear masks.

“What it felt like as a tourist to be able to go to a restaurant and show your vaccination card and feel like you could sit down and have a meal easily was amazing,” Smith said, adding that she also felt this feeling. security in theaters.

La Spata took it further, asking “when are we going to see vaccine requirements and new rules put in place for more public spaces … when are we going to move from contemplation to implementation?” What should you see as a commissioner? ”

Arwady said she looked forward to hearing the aldermen’s positions on a possible vaccination mandate for high-risk public places, but that “if that’s something we’re doing, I want to do it in partnership as much. as possible”.

“I want to stay open… we don’t want, God forbid, say that people have to eat out again in January,” Arwady said.

Chicago is home to “a lot of small businesses” that would be affected by a vaccination requirement and “that would be a real change for” them, Arwady said. “If we’re doing this, I want to do that kind of partnership as much as possible with them. ”

Arwady said she was considering a vaccine mandate that would be effective during outbreaks of COVID-19 cases rather than a mandate that lasts “forever”.

La Spata said he shared Smith’s feelings about the New York tenure. “I’m going to New York for the holidays, and I can’t wait to eat at restaurants that need a vaccine because it gives me reassurance,” La Spata said.

La Spata also shouted at two prominent companies in its service – Cole’s Bar in Logan Square and Dorian’s Cocktail Bar in Wicker Park – who “know customers appreciate the requirement for a vaccine” that allows customers “To feel more comfortable removing a mask”.

The best doctor in town said she believes there is no longer an access problem for Chicagoans who have not yet been vaccinated. “We’re the only city that … will bring a vaccine to your house, you know what I mean?” ”

The problem is more “a lot of misinformation” coupled with a distrust of the public health ministry, government and medical professionals, Arwady said.

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