Amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in Evanston and across the state, Evanston’s Health Department Thursday issued an order requiring proof of vaccination for customers at indoor dining and entertainment venues and fitness facilities.

The order, effective Jan. 10, is similar to ones issued by the Chicago, Cook County, and Skokie Health Departments.

Evanston’s seven-day rolling average of COVID cases is more than 95 cases a day, with the test positivity rate is 6.81%. ICU bed availability in suburban Cook County (Region 10) is currently 12 percent.

“As COVID-19 cases surge in Evanston and throughout the Chicago area, vaccination remains our strongest protection against severe illness and hospitalization from this highly contagious virus,” said Health & Human Services Director Ike Ogbo.

“These mitigation measures will help reduce transmission in crowded indoor settings,” Ogbo said, “and provide much needed support to our strained healthcare system.”

Mayor Daniel Biss said the new rules are necessary “to slow the spread of this disease and keep each other safe.”

“I greatly appreciate our entire community’s efforts and continued adherence to public health guidance during this very challenging time,” the mayor added.

Businesses and venues subject to the order must display signage notifying patrons of the requirements at every entrance and prominently within the facility.

The city has created an example sign that businesses and venues may print and display. Businesses and venues should also complete the City’s Proof of Vaccination Compliance Plan to indicate how they will implement the order.

Establishments subject to the order include all indoor settings where food and drink are served for on-premises consumption, such as restaurants, breweries, coffee shops, event spaces, movie theaters and performance spaces, as well as recreation and exercise facilities, such as health clubs, gyms, fitness studios and recreation centers.

The order does not apply to individuals 18 years or younger entering a location to participate in a K-12 school activity or after school program. Other exemptions for individuals and businesses can be found in the City’s order.

All individuals two years of age or older continue to be required to wear a mask in all public indoor settings, as per the City’s face covering order, which remains in effect.

The City will hold a virtual Q&A for business owners and employees on Tuesday, Jan. 4 at 3 p.m. to provide information and answer questions regarding the new mitigations.

Overview of new mitigations:

  • Qualifying businesses and venues must require individuals five years and older to show proof they are fully vaccinated to enter
  • Businesses and venues must also require patrons age 16 and older to show a valid government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license or passport, or a school or work ID with a photo.
  • Businesses and venues must post signage making patrons aware of the requirements at all entrances and prominently within the establishment
  • Employees of qualifying establishments must be fully vaccinated OR show weekly proof of a negative COVID-19 test
  • Businesses and venues should complete a Proof of Vaccination Compliance Plan or create one to document plan implementation and enforcement

Proof of vaccination may include:

  • CDC COVID-19 vaccination card; or
  • Official immunization record from the jurisdiction where the vaccine was administered; or
  • App providing a digital vaccination record; or
  • Digital or physical photo of their vaccination card or record

An individual is fully vaccinated:

  • Two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series with an approved COVID-19 vaccine, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines
  • Two weeks after a single-dose series with an approved COVID-19 vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.