by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer

CHICAGO (CBS) — Eight members of the Chicago City Council who sit on the Committee on Health are asking Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady to require people to show proof of vaccination to enter public indoor settings like restaurants, bars, theaters, and gyms.

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“In the interest of public health, New York City, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Puerto Rico have all begun requiring proof of vaccination for persons visiting public indoor settings,” the aldermen wrote in their letter. “We believe it is time for Chicago to do the same.”

The letter sites the continuing spread of the more contagious delta variant of COVID-19, the threat of other variants, looming colder weather driving more people indoors, and the easy availability of vaccines.

The following aldermen signed on to the letter: Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd), Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th),
Ald. Michele Smith (43rd), Ald. Matt Martin (47th), and Ald. Maria Hadden (49th).

Ramirez-Rosa’s office shared Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s response to the aldermen’s request, in which she questioned whether they had discussed it with Health Committee Chair Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th):

“Alderman Rosa, is there a reason this missive is coming from you and not from the Chair of the Committee? I am just seeking clarity as to whether this issue has been discussed through the Health Committee itself.  Please advise,” Lightfoot wrote in an email to Ramirez-Rosa.

Ramirez-Rosa responded to the mayor by saying their letter was shared with every member of the Health Committee before it was sent to Arwady and Lightfoot, and all committee members were given the opportunity to sign on before it was sent out.

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“Are you suggesting the Committee hold a hearing on this matter? If so I am happy to co-sponsor a resolution alongside you for the committee to hold a hearing on this important public health measure,” Ramirez-Rosa wrote. “I would like to note that it is customary in legislative bodies for members of a committee to circulate and sent letters to the executive branch – they can be signed by one legislator or all the legislators on the committee, or any combination thereof. Thank you for your attention to this important matter and I look forward to working together with your administration as we take the necessary steps to protect the health of our city’s residents and visitors.”

In a statement, the Chicago Department of Public Health said, “Our goal as a City is that Chicago remain both open and safe, and at this point we remain in good control of COVID compared to most of the rest of the country.”

The department said it already works with We require masks for everyone age 2 and over in all indoor public settings and are in communication with the business community on other mitigation measures they can take to slow transmission and keep Chicagoans safe.

The city already requires people to wear masks in public indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status, and public health officials said they will continue to monitor daily COVID-19 data “and will adapt public health guidance as appropriate, as we have throughout the pandemic.”

“We will continue to monitor locations around the country and the world that have put vaccine requirements for certain businesses in place, as well as the results of those requirements,” officials said.

Many restaurants, bars, and other businesses have set their own rules requiring customers to show proof of vaccination before entry. That includes the United Center and the Lyric Opera.

Lightfoot also has said she plans to require all city employees to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15, although she has said the details are still being worked out with the city’s various labor unions, and the mayor has yet to say what consequences city workers might face if they refuse.

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The Fraternal Order of Police has said they will fight any vaccine mandate for officers, and the Chicago Federation of Labor, which is affiliated with many of the labor unions representing city workers, also has warned against requiring vaccinations, claiming such a mandate could “harden opposition to the vaccine instead of protecting the workers who have sacrificed so much over the past 18 months.”

CBS 2 Chicago Staff