Chicago mandates vaccines for restaurants, bars, and gyms amid COVID-19 surge

Chicago joins New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other big cities in mandating vaccines

Chicago became the latest big city on Tuesday to announce a vaccine mandate for any public place that serves food and drinks, including bars, restaurants, sports stadiums, entertainment venues, and more. 

Mayor Lori Lightfoot cited a surge of COVID-19 cases driven by the delta and omicron variants in announcing the new mandate. 

"New steps must be taken to protect the health and wellbeing of our residents," Lightfoot said. 

"This public health order requiring proof of vaccination to visit certain indoor public places is a necessary measure to ensure we can continue to enjoy our city's many amenities as we enter the new year."

An employee draws up a syringe with the Pfizer vaccine against the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease at vaccination bus on Nov. 23, 2021. (Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP)

Starting on Jan. 3, anyone aged 5 and over will have to show proof of full vaccination. Anyone aged 16 and older will have to show an ID that matches the name on the vaccination record. 


Unvaccinated employees in Chicago can continue to work, but they must wear a mask while indoors and provide a weekly negative COVID-19 test. 

Lightfoot's office said that Chicago's COVID-19 numbers are the worst they have been since January of this year, before vaccines were widely available. 

The city is averaging 1,700 new cases a day, a 79% increase over just one week ago. More than 60 residents are being hospitalized, and 10 Chicagoans are dying every day, according to the mayor's office. 

In this Sept. 13, 2021 photo, Maitre d' Susanne McDonald, center right, checks a guest's proof of vaccination at a restaurant. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Illinois reported 12,328 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, the most since Dec. 1 of 2020.


The Illinois Restaurant Association struck a neutral tone after the mandate was announced. 

"Chicago's hospitality community is in a very fragile stage of recovery," the association said in a statement Tuesday. "We encourage all diners to please lend their cooperation, respect and kindness to the employees working to comply with the new mandate during these challenging times."

People line up at a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing at a mobile testing van on August 27, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid


Several other big cities have announced some version of a vaccine mandate for bars and restaurants, including New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, and New Orleans. 

Omicron overtook delta as the dominant strain in the United States, now accounting for 73.2% of new cases, according to data released by the CDC on Monday.