A day after a protest was held to end Highland Park’s proof of vaccination mandate on private businesses, the city council voted on Monday to extend the mandate before it expired.
A Highland Park City Council meeting was held Monday evening virtually over Zoom. The extension of the order was voted 5-2.
Mayor Nancy Rotering along with council members Michelle Holleman, Adam Stolberg, Kim Stone and Anthony Blumberg voted in favor of extending the order.
Council members Andres Tapia and Annette Lidawer voted no to renewing the order.
Lidawer said before the vote that she no longer supports the mandate after seeing no difference in COVID-19 case numbers over the past month.
“We need to continue doing what we can to try and mitigate the risk of exposure,” Rotering said.
“Residents are perfectly welcome to make their own choices about vaccination but we know that as a public body we have to stand on the side of public safety and public health and make decisions that protect the public and mitigate the pandemic’s impact on our region’s overburdened health care system,” Rotering said.
City Manager Ghida Neukirch read approximately a dozen letters of comment into the record during the meeting.
All of the letters read during the meeting opposed the mandate.
One of the letters was from a former Highland Park resident who said he was fully vaccinated and boosted but strongly opposed the mandate.
“I frequented restaurants and shops in Highland Park regularly. With the new mandate on vaccination, I refuse to go to Highland Park for anything. This not only hurts the restaurants but all the shop owners that used to get my business,” the man said in his letter.
“Yes, I have been vaccinated and boosted based on my choices, not yours. My status is none of your business. I’m healthy, taking the health of those around me seriously, but will not allow Highland Park to mandate my vax as permission to do business in this lovely place,” the letter said.
On Sunday, a protest was held at Port Clinton Square near Central Avenue and 1st Street in Highland Park.
The protest, which was called “End the Vaccine Mandate,” was organized by Highland Park resident Suzanne Wahl, who spoke at Monday’s city council meeting.
“Restaurants are the anchor of a community. […] We’re losing our restaurants and when we lose our restaurants we lose our community,” Wahl said during the protest.
“If you want to get a vax, that’s great. But when a governing body says you can’t go to a restaurant unless you have a vax card, that’s wrong,” Highland Park resident Bill Dahms said.
“Why do I have to divulge my medical history, my private medical information, to eat in a restaurant. That’s not about health, that’s about control,” Wahl told ABC7 Chicago.
A group, that was in favor of the proof of vaccination mandate, stood across the street from the anti-vaccine mandate group to voice their counter opinions.
According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, 94.4% of residents in Highland Park have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 82.3% are fully vaccinated.
The Highland Park City Council passed the original proof of vaccination order on December 29, which went into effect on January 7.
The order requires certain businesses to check proof of COVID-19 vaccination for all patrons, including everyone age 5 and older.
The order applies to restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and bars, including fast food and fast-casual establishments.
It also applies to indoor entertainment venues where food and drinks are served, such as movie theatres, live performance spaces, sports arenas, arcades, bowling alleys and other establishments.
The next Highland Park City Council meeting is scheduled for February 14.