'We should be rejecting this': Wheeling trustee rails against vaccination order

  • Joe Vito

    Joe Vito

  • Ray Lang

    Ray Lang

Updated 1/6/2022 11:48 AM
Editor's Note: A quote from Trustee Ray Lang that was trimmed from a previous version of the story has been reinstated.

Wheeling Trustee Joe Vito launched into an 11-minute diatribe against Cook County's COVID-19 proof-of-vaccination mandate during Monday's village board meeting -- but he couldn't persuade a majority of the panel to oppose the policy.

Vito's passionate appeal came the same day Cook County Health Department's order went into effect. Noting the policy wasn't publicly debated or approved by the county board, Vito called it a "complete contradiction to democracy."


"We should be rejecting this and refusing to enforce it," Vito said.

Across the county, people 5 and older must now show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to enter restaurants, fitness centers and bars. The order also applies to movie theaters, concert venues and other entertainment venues serving food.

Houses of worship and grocery stores are exempt, as are office buildings, grade schools and residential buildings.

County board review wasn't needed for the order. As Wheeling's municipal attorney pointed out Monday, the county health department has jurisdiction over health-related matters within Wheeling or any Cook community.

Vito compared the policy to asking for identification documents in formerly communist East Germany.

The county wants people to "show me your papers if you want to have a hamburger," Vito said.

Vito noted that Wheeling is split between Cook and Lake counties and that a vaccination order is in place only in Cook. That means unvaccinated people aren't allowed in Wheeling restaurants south of Lake-Cook Road but are allowed north of that line.

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That, Vito said, isn't fair to many local entrepreneurs. He suggested the board consider requiring proof of vaccination at applicable businesses throughout Wheeling or nowhere in town.

Eventually, Vito asked for informal consensus to stand against the order. He found allies in trustees Dave Vogel and Mary Papantos, the latter of whom thanked Vito for looking into the matter.

But Village President Pat Horcher and trustees Jim Ruffato, Mary Krueger and Ray Lang didn't agree.

Lang said the order is no different from the county's requirement for dog owners to vaccinate pets against rabies and purchase the appropriate tags from the county.

"Why would we pick and choose (what county orders to follow)?" Lang said.

Vito rejected the comparison, saying sitting in a restaurant next to someone who hasn't been vaccinated against COVID-19 isn't as dangerous as a rabid dog.


Afterward, Vito said he wasn't surprised by the vote. But he felt making a stand was important.

"Being ruled by autocratic mandates ... with no legislative deliberation is a true threat to democracy," he said. "It is anti-democratic by definition, even if we like and agree with the mandates."

The issue is being debated in other suburbs, too.

St. Charles aldermen and Mayor Lora Vitek on Monday publicly proclaimed they oppose requiring people to show proof of vaccination to visit businesses. No such order exists in Kane County, where St. Charles lies.

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