Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced proof of vaccination will be required for indoor public spaces like restaurants, bars and gyms in the new year.
And yes, the policy includes sports arenas. That would presumably include the United Center, home to the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks.
This season the United Center required anyone attending events at the arena, including Bulls and Blackhawks games, to present either proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test in order to enter the venue. At the time, proof of vaccination was only an option for guests over age 11.
The new city policy lowers that age threshold to anyone age 5 and older. Anyone over the age of 16 will also be required to provide identification that matches their vaccination card.
Nonresident professional athletes are exempt from the policy.
Chicago becomes the latest city to issue proof of vaccination requirements, following New York and Los Angeles. And the indoor mask mandate remains in effect.
"Despite our diligent and equitable vaccine distribution efforts throughout this year, unfortunately, our city continues to see a surge of COVID-19 Delta and now Omicron cases," Lightfoot said in a statement. "New steps must be taken to protect the health and wellbeing of our residents. 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."
Numerous Bulls and Blackhawks games have already been suspended this season as COVID-19 cases rise within the leagues. The NHL has paused their season until after Christmas.
The Blackhawks' had three games suspended in December. The Bulls had two games suspended, and a third against the Toronto Raptors could be in jeopardy as players for both teams enter the health and safety protocols.
“This new requirement will not eliminate COVID risk, but it will help ensure a much safer indoor environment for fully vaccinated Chicagoans, as well as for the employees working in these higher-risk settings. As we head further into the winter months, we must take this step now,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement. “With Omicron, I do expect to see many more COVID reinfections and breakthrough cases, but luckily the vaccines continue to protect very well against severe illness, hospitalization, and death—and even more so when people have also had a booster shot. I remain most worried about the hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans who still have not received a single dose of COVID vaccine nor recovered from COVID infection. I’m worried for their own health, but also for the risk they pose to others’ health and to our hospital capacity—and while we are in this concerning surge, we must limit that risk.”
The Canadian Province of Ontario lowered the capacity of sporting venues to 50 percent in the wake of the omicron variant spike. That new rule went into affect on Dec. 18.