Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s new term will require Chicagoans aged 5 and over to prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and present photo ID before entering restaurants, bars and gymnasiums from January 3.

Chicagoans will need to provide proof of vaccination and photo ID before entering city restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues starting Jan. 3, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

Office buildings, airports and churches are exempt. People with a religious exemption can provide a negative test, but the testing option has not been offered to those who have chosen not to be vaccinated.

Employees of these companies will not need to prove that they are fully immunized. They will be required to wear masks when dealing with clients and provide weekly proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

Lightfoot said its new rules for businesses and residents of Chicago are necessary steps to curb the wave of coronavirus transmissions in the city.

“Further steps must be taken to protect the health and well-being of our residents,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “This public health order requiring proof of vaccination to visit certain indoor public places is a necessary step to ensure that we can continue to enjoy our city’s many amenities as the New Year dawns.”

The mayor told a press conference at town hall that his administration “will not leave any options on the table when it comes to protecting the safety of our residents.”

Lightfoot’s proof of vaccination entry requirement will apply to:

  • Restaurants, bars, fast food establishments, cafes, tasting rooms, cafeterias, food courts, grocery food courts, breweries, wineries, distilleries, banquet halls and hotel ballrooms
  • Gyms, yoga, pilates, cycling, barre and dance studios, hotel gyms, training camps and other facilities
  • Movie theaters, concert and music venues, performance halls, adult entertainment venues, commercial event and party venues, sports arenas, performing arts theaters, bowling alleys, arcades and halls games

Schools, daycares, churches, airports and office buildings are exempt from the mandate. Chicagoans under the age of 5 are also exempt.

Businesses will not be required to verify proof of vaccination if a person enters to order and carry food, deliver goods or use the washroom.

Lightfoot initially expressed opposition to vaccination passport policies implemented by other major cities such as Los Angeles and New York, even fire an Alderman proposal for a similar city-wide mandate earlier this year.

But now Lightfoot says the city’s substantial transmission rates require further restrictions. She said these rules will remain in place “thanks to this increase caused by Omicron and the risk of overwhelming hospital capacity has passed.”

Chicago recorded an average of 1,776 new cases of COVID-19 per day on December 21 – the highest in almost a year – and the city’s positivity rate of 7.3%, both up significantly from to the previous week. Hospitalizations are on average 62 per day, while deaths have climbed to 10 per day.

The vast majority of these cases, hospitalizations and deaths are among the unvaccinated. Lightfoot said the answer to whether the city will pursue more stringent mitigation measures in the future “rests with the unvaccinated.”

Nationally, the most contagious omicron variant compose now 73% of new cases of COVID-19, succeeding the delta coronavirus as the dominant variant in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.