Arlington Heights mayor: Vaccine mandate compliance up to businesses, county

  • Tom Hayes

    Tom Hayes

Updated 1/12/2022 8:09 PM

Despite increasing pressure from residents who want him to take a stand against Cook County's proof-of-vaccination mandate for restaurants, Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes said he and village officials are leaving enforcement up to the county and decisions about compliance to individual businesses.

"What we're doing, like many other communities are doing, is leaving it up to our businesses, because they are the ones who are going to be cited and fined and perhaps shut down if they don't comply," Hayes said. "But I believe in freedom of choice and freedom of businesses operating their businesses as they see fit. They should be the ones to decide whether or not they comply or how they comply and take the risk if they don't comply.


"We're taking a very measured and balanced approach that is consistent with what most other communities are doing in the Chicagoland area."

Hayes made the comments during an at-times testy village board committee meeting Monday night, when about 50 people, some holding signs, encouraged the mayor and trustees to defy the county health department order. It requires people 5 and older to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to enter restaurants, bars, movie theaters, fitness clubs, concert halls and other entertainment venues serving food.

Casey Deja, one of eight speakers during the board's public comment period, expressed frustration with not being able to visit local businesses or participate in athletic and recreational activities. Deja said she is not comfortable getting vaccinated because she has a history of blood clots.

"We can't take our kids to eat. We can't take them to the movies. We can't take them bowling. I had to quit my volleyball league. I can't go to the gym. I can't take my kids to open gym that the coaches are telling them to go do. How do you explain that to a 9- and 10-year-old?" Deja said. "To think this is a minor inconvenience for us is fine. I'm more worried about what we're teaching our children -- that the vaccinated are entitled to freedoms but the unvaccinated are not?"

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The residents asked Hayes and village officials to push back on the county, some citing Orland Park, whose mayor and board passed a resolution opposing the county mandate. The resolution said the order wouldn't be enforced by the South suburban village, while officials there called on state legislators to ban "vaccination passports."

Hayes said municipalities in suburban Cook County don't have the authority to opt out of the county mandate.

"(Orland Park) can say all they want, but the county still has the power and authority to go into a business in Orland Park and fine them, and even shut them down if they're not complying," Hayes said. "So, you know, don't think that Orland Park is just the haven for freedom, because they can say all they want, but the county -- it's their order."

Hayes said Arlington Heights also doesn't have the power to enforce the county order, but village health department officers would respond to any complaints received about businesses not in compliance.

Under the village policy, health officers who are able to verify a complaint will give a written warning to the business. If a second complaint is received, the local health department would refer the matter to the county health department for investigation.

"We do have an obligation as a municipality with its own health department to make sure our people are safe. We do have an obligation to investigate, and that's all we're doing," Hayes said. "We don't consider that an enforcement action. We consider that an investigation action."

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