BREAKING: New Illinois Restrictions, Vaccine Mandates, Lock In As Covid Explodes ‘Out Of Control’
BREAKING NEWS: Tough new covid restrictions in Illinois have been implemented as Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that after Jan. 3, Chicago will impose a vaccine mandate for bars, restaurants, gyms, and other businesses, requiring anyone over the age of 5 to show proof of vaccination or negative covid test over the past 24 hours.
Proof of vaccination or negative covid test will be required at restaurants and bars, entertainment venues where food and beverages are served, sports arenas, concert venues, bowling alleys, movie theaters, and indoor fitness centers. As of yet, other places of gathering such as grocery stores, churches, schools, and government buildings, are not included.
“These are the places that are the most risky places for spread, which is why we’re focused on them,” Lightfoot said in making the announcement last night. “This order will remain in effect until the city deems that the threat of covid-19 to public health has diminished significantly.”
As Chicago has gone in the past, so has the rest of Illinois, and as covid cases — particularly of the excessively virulent omicron variant — have exploded around Chicago and statewide, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and Lightfoot have hinted at further restrictions for not just Chicago, but all of Illinois. With Lightfoot taking this step, many are speculating Pritzker could soon do the same for the rest of the state.
Monday set the record for the most covid cases in one day since Dec. 1, 2020 as 12,328 new cases of the virus were reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Tuesday, Illinois public health officials reported 10,264 new cases and 63 covid-related deaths. The seven-day statewide test positivity rate is 7.6 percent. There have been 1,985,779 total covid-19 cases, including 27,291 deaths in the state since the pandemic began.
The omicron variant has begun to sweep across Illinois, with confirmed cases in seven counties, all around Chicagoland. The variant was responsible for 73 percent of new cases over the last week nationwide.
Hospitalizations continue to skyrocket, with less than five percent of ICU beds available in some counties. Over 4,000 patients in Illinois are currently in the hospital with covid, with 845 patients in the ICU and 432 on ventilators.
“Hospital bed availability has reached a critically low level. Demand on resources is high,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director, Illinois Department of Public Health. “This is setting up to be a very deadly covid Christmas and New Year’s.”
“This new wave is seemingly more deadly than the last, spreading faster and causing profound harm,” Lightfoot said. “To be clear, I’ve not been this concerned about covid-19 since the early days of the pandemic.”
“Chances are everyone knows someone with covid-19 right now,” said Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady. “It’s everywhere.”
The Illinois Restaurant Associated commented through a statement released Tuesday night, saying, “Chicago’s hospitality community is in a very fragile stage of recovery. Throughout the pandemic, the industry has prioritized customer and team member safety above all else, and the IRA strongly supports vaccinations for everyone to mitigate the spread of covid-19. 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.”
The havoc wreaked by covid over the past month in Illinois has prompted several schools across the state to announce they’ll be going to remote learning at least to begin the next semester in January. Northwestern, DePaul and University of Chicago in Cook County will all begin as remote learning, as will University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign in downstate Champaign.
In addition, performances at public venues have begun shutting down.
The Paramount Theatre in Aurora on Friday announced the cancellation of performances through Sunday of its current production of “Cinderella” due to covid.
“Pretty Woman: The Musical” was shutdown by Broadway In Chicago.
The Joffrey Ballet canceled Dec 17-18 performances of “The Nutcracker” at the Lyric Opera House due to covid.
And Teatro ZinZanni, the dinner theatre/cirque extravaganza at the Spiegeltent ZaZou on the 14th floor of the Cambria Hotel Chicago Loop, released a statement on its website announcing that it was closing down, with a hope to reopen on Dec. 26.
Illinois cases are up over 40 percent since the start of December, and officials are finally admitting that they’ve been looking at expanding statewide restrictions.
“We have moved into very high transmission,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner. “While unsurprising, this news should remind Chicagoans of the ongoing threat from covid-19, especially as families prepare to come together over the holidays.”
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