Illinois COVID cases: Surge quits Chicago restaurants, bars struggle to find common ground

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CHICAGO (WLS) — COVID cases in Illinois are rising again, leaving restaurants and bars struggling with staff and security while trying to stay afloat through the winter.

In Lakeview East there is talk of restaurants and nightclubs being voluntarily closed for a time during the holidays to stop the latest wave of the virus. Not all locations participate; Chicago Bagel Authority remains open now after doing some prior closings and retoolings.

“We closed for a month to completely rework everything we were doing,” said George Slater, director.

RELATED: Illinois reports 12,328 new COVID cases, 11 deaths as ICU beds fill up

The restaurant has done surprisingly robust business since focusing on takeout and commercial meal delivery since the onset of the COVID era. Management said battling the omicron variant during the shutdown isn’t a start, but a vaccine passport detailing people’s adherence to COVID-19 vaccination protocols might be worth considering.

“A lot of places that have changed, changed their business model, changed their focus and they, ourselves included, have thrived,” Slater said.

The Illinois Restaurant Association said, “If a Chicago vaccine passport is instituted, we will advocate for policies that are as business-friendly as possible and do not impede our industry’s very fragile recovery.”

Michelle Mirzoian, who is immunocompromised, contracted COVID last week. The marketing manager was celebrating her running group’s 1st anniversary at a West Town beer hall.

“I still have some congestion and the headache comes and goes from time to time, but most of the time my vaccine worked,” she said.

Ten of the 15 people with her that night also contracted COVID. They were all double vaccinated and boosted to protect against the virus.

“In my mind, it’s here and your vaccination might not stop you from getting it exactly, but it definitely stops the severity of what we’ve seen in 2020,” Mirozian said. “And we have to take care of each other in Chicago.”

As vaccine passport talks pick up again, you can expect to see more restaurants closed over the holidays due to COVID. The Steingold’s owner chose to close for a few days after catching the virus, even though he is also double vaccinated and boosted. Still, he stressed he was not hospitalized and expects to open online sales by Wednesday.

Illinois reported the most new confirmed COVID cases for one day in 2021 on Monday, with more than 12,000 confirmed.

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