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How Will Chicago's COVID-19 Vaccination Requirement For Public Places Be Enforced?

CHICAGO (CBS) -- We got a curious email from the Mayor's office on Tuesday, which proudly touted in bold type that there had been no mask violations in Chicago businesses from Dec. 23 until Dec. 26.

Really? In the whole city - everyone wore their mask all the time?

We hope to find out more about what's going on there. But that development also came as the city is about to crack down on requiring COVID-19 vaccinations in public places. We wanted to know how that will be enforced.

CBS 2's Tara Molina asked the city for answers Tuesday. We have learned some businesses are confused about how the proof-of-vaccine requirement is going to go. So we brought questions directly to the city about enforcement, how it will really play out, and what you should expect.

Starting Jan. 3, everyone 5 and older will need some documentation to get inside any Chicago restaurant, gym, or entertainment venue that serves food and drinks. They will need proof of vaccination and, for those 16 an older, an ID.

As businesses gear up to implement the policy, announced by Mayor Lightfoot last week, some are still working to figure out how to make it work – fast.

"We are constantly flying by the seat of our pants," said Mary Kay Tuzi, owner of Twin Anchors Restaurant & Tavern in Old Town.

Restaurateurs are also trying to understand exactly what the city's expectations are.

"No real guidance on how we are supposed to do this," she said.

So how exactly the city will enforce this upcoming mandate?

The section of the city's website dedicated to enforcement just says who can enforce the mandate and what can happen if they do.

We were told interviews weren't possible on this subject Tuesday, so we sent the Mayor's office and the city's business office a number of questions.

The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection said the vaccination requirement will be handled the same way the mask mandate and other health orders have been:

"On January 3, 2022, the Vaccine Requirement will be in effect and enforced. As outlined in Public Health Order 2021-2, Section 7 states: Pursuant to Sections 2-112-040 and 2-112-050 of the Code, in conjunction with enforcement authority granted in the Code, this Order may be enforced by the Commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP), the Commissioner of the Buildings, or the Chicago Police Department, in addition to the Commissioner of Health.

"Similar to the Mask Mandate, establishments who violate the Vaccine Requirement can be issued two-citations/charges for violating the BACP and CDPH requirements under City of Chicago Public Health Order No. 2021-02.

"Any individual age 5 and older will be required to show proof of vaccination to dine indoors, visit gyms, or enjoy entertainment venues where food or drink are being served. Patrons 16 and older will have to show identification that matches their vaccination card. Patrons can prepare to have documentation ready when requested by a covered location in the public health order."

On enforcement, BACP added:

"The enforcement of the Vaccine Requirement is no different than the Mask Mandate, previous public health orders, or general operations.

"BACP investigations are complaint driven. Investigations can be conducted covertly if necessary, BACP Investigators will identify themselves whether a complaint is addressed overtly or covertly. BACP investigators always carry official City identification. Citizens are encouraged to contact 3-1-1 to report violations.

"In addition to addressing complains the BACP Active Compliance Program (ACP), a proactive educational program that helps business owners/operators stay compliant through non-disciplinary consultations, will be informing and reminding covered location to abide by the Vaccine Requirement and the Mask Mandate.

"BACP reserves the right to issue enforcement based on the egregiousness of the violation found during the investigation. Enforcement can vary from a 1-day Notice to Correct to citations issued in real time.

"All are parts of a comprehensive effort to ensure compliance and hold businesses accountable to these safety regulations designed to keep all Chicagoans safe."

The city didn't say if anyone will be checking businesses randomly. Again, they only said investigations are driven by complaints.

This can all be enforced by BACP, the Department of Buildings, and Chicago Police. Despite some pushback, the deadline is still set for Monday, Jan. 3.

Meanwhile, Illinois Restaurant Association President and Chief Executive Officer Sam Toia released the following statement:

"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."

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