The ommicron variant of COVID-19 has been detected in a resident of Chicago, Illinois and Chicago public health departments announced Tuesday.
The health commissioner, Dr. Allison Arwady, who had previously predicted it was only a matter of time, said that given the omicron and an increase in cases, the city is considering moving to require a vaccination certificate to allow people to go to public areas such as bars or restaurants.
“I’m definitely more interested in that than some of the big closures,” she said. “Theatres and many other spaces are already doing this, but it’s definitely something that as this increase continues and certainly with the new variant we can do more of it.”
That may tempt those who have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine to do so.
State Representative Jonathan Carroll, D-Northbrook, has proposed a different method. He introduced House Bill 4259, which by January 2023 would require unvaccinated individuals hospitalized or requiring other medical treatment due to COVID-19 to pay all related costs out of pocket.
“People need to get the vaccine. It’s been proven to be safe and effective, and it’s frustrating for those of us who are vaccinated that others choose not to get vaccinated,” said Carroll.
He said it wouldn’t be a government mandate, but it would remain the choice of the individual. Actions have consequences, he said, which could be a result of not getting the COVID-19 shot.
“I don’t want to punish people. At the same time, it’s very hard for me to understand why people don’t take this vaccine. It’s been out for a year. It’s proven effective, it’s proven safe. My limbs have not fallen off. I’ve never had Bill Gates follow me,” he said. “Polio was out there. People took the vaccine, we were able to eradicate polio.”
Carroll said those who are not vaccinated contribute to a clogged health care system.
A study by the Peterson Health Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that “preventable COVID-19 hospitalizations among unvaccinated adults” over the summer cost more than $5 billion.
There are legal obstacles to Carroll’s solution: The Affordable Care Act prevents insurance discrimination based on a person’s health status.
Carroll called his proposal a starting point for conversation and said he’s open to other options, such as a raise similar to that of a smoker’s life insurance policy.
Meanwhile, another just-introduced piece of legislation takes the opposite direction.
Rep. Adam Niemerg’s HB4239 would prohibit discrimination against anyone who chooses not to be vaccinated because of religious or personal beliefs.
“It is unlawful for any person, public or private institution, or government official to discriminate in any way against any person because of such person’s refusal to obtain, receive, or accept a COVID-19 vaccination in violation of its or her conviction,” the measure reads. “It is unlawful for any government official, guardian, agency, institution or entity to refuse any form of assistance, assistance or benefit, or to condition in any way the receipt of any form of assistance, assistance or benefit, or in any other means of coercing, disqualifying or discriminating against any person who is otherwise entitled to such assistance, assistance or benefits because that person refuses to obtain, receive or accept a COVID-19 vaccination contrary to the belief of the person.”
He said COVID-19 should be taken seriously and it is understandable that government leaders “want to fight it with every means in their arsenal”.
“But public health should not be an excuse to take away our freedoms and liberties. We must take steps to advance public health, but we must do this in the context of our rights as Americans,” Niemerg said at a news conference in Springfield on Tuesday.
Niemerg admitted that his proposal has a steep climb.
Governor JB Pritzker signed into law in November (Senate Act 1169/Public Act 102-0667) amending the Illinois health care conscience law — a measure he and other proponents say was designed to help doctors and other workers in the health care system. health care with religious objections to abortions because they don’t have to perform them, but which they say have been abused by anti-vaccine people to avoid their employers’ COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
The update makes it clear that it is not a law violation for an employer to impose mandates on employees intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
But that law will not come into effect until the summer; additional votes are needed for a law to take effect immediately, and there was not enough support in the General Assembly.
Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky