The following article by Jonathan Bilyk appeared February 10, 2022 on cookcountyrecord.com.
Noting research indicating COVID vaccines have done little to slow the spread of the omicron variant of the virus, a group of unvaccinated residents of Chicago and Cook County have sued the city and county, asking a federal judge to put an end to the city’s and county’s vaccine passport orders.
The lawsuit was filed in Chicago federal court on Feb. 10. The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from the Liberty Justice Center, of Chicago.
“… Despite the fact that the world knew in mid- to late-December that vaccination was no barrier to transmission of Omicron, the President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners and Mayor of Chicago nevertheless imposed a vaccine passport requirement starting on January 3, 2022, on citizens daring to venture out to restaurants, bars, and sporting events,” the plaintiffs wrote in their complaint.
“This show-your-papers mandate, which says it is designed to stop the transmission of Omicron, will do nothing of the sort, and is patently irrational.”
Plaintiffs named in the lawsuit are identified as Laura Ravago, of Wilmette; Mary Kate Knorr, of Chicago; Jasmine Hauser, identified as a resident of Cook County; Anthony Kawalkowski, of Chicago; Courtney Connolly, of Chicago; Charlotte Wager, of Arlington Heights; Mary Beth Peterson, of Cook County; and a woman identified as Jane Doe #1, who works in a public school system, but secured a religious exemption to her school’s vaccination employment mandate.
The lawsuit takes aim at the so-called vaccine passport orders issued in the city of Chicago and in suburban Cook County. The orders generally require anyone over the age of 5 to present proof of vaccination against COVID-19 before they are allowed to enter and remain in restaurants, bars, museums, theaters, stadiums, mall food courts, and a wide number of other indoor public accommodations.
The orders expressly exempt schools and churches, as well as certain other indoor settings.
In recent days, the vaccine passport orders have come under assault politically. In Chicago, for instance, a group of aldermen signed their names to letters demanding Chicago Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady rescind the vaccine passport orders, claiming it is devastating restaurants and other businesses throughout the city, as people avoid establishments that are abiding by the orders.
Further, across the country, states and cities are dumping stringent COVID restrictions, including mask mandates and vaccine mandates, amid public pressure, though leaders cite plunging COVID case rates and hospitalizations, as the omicron surge quickly ebbs. This has, in turn, placed pressure on Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to follow suit, and end the restrictive mandates in Chicago and statewide.
Pritzker has indicated he plans to lift the state’s indoor mask mandate by Feb. 28. Lightfoot and Arwady have said the city may also follow suit, should COVID cases continue to rapidly improve. They have not indicated, however, if the city may also lift its vaccine passport rules at the same time.
In their complaint, the plaintiffs argue federal courts shouldn’t wait for the city and county to take action. They assert the vaccine passports have violated their constitutional rights, as well as Chicago’s own municipal code.
Kawalkowski, for instance, noted the passport mandates have violated his rights, by denying him the opportunity to perform musically at Chicago-area venues, even while it exempts similar musical performers from out of town.
Many of the plaintiffs assert the mandates violate their religious freedom rights, as many say they have declined to be vaccinated based on religious objections to the vaccine itself.
And all say the vaccine passport orders have violated their rights to due process, by denying them the opportunity to object to a new order which effectively blocks them from entering restaurants and other places of public accommodation, which should otherwise be open to all.
Further, they assert, these rights have been violated in the name of a public health policy that will not and cannot achieve its goal, the reduction of spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19.
And they claim forcing people to become vaccinated in order to access public accommodations, and then forcing them to disclose their vaccination status, violates their rights to privacy under the Illinois state constitution.
They pointed to research from the U.S. and elsewhere showing current COVID vaccines have done next to nothing to prevent vaccinated people from being infected by and transmitting the omicron variant virus.
“If vaccination has zero impact on whether or not someone spreads Omicron to another person, and the point of the Orders is to stop the spread of Omicron, the Orders are not rational—vaccination status has zero impact on Omicron transmission, such that unvaccinated individuals are at no higher risk of giving or receiving Omicron than vaccinated individuals in public settings,” the plaintiffs wrote.
The plaintiffs have requested the court enter an order forbidding the enforcement of the orders, as unconstitutional, and awarding the plaintiffs unspecified actual and nominal damages, plus pay attorney fees.
They are represented by attorney Daniel R. Suhr, of the Liberty Justice Center.
“It has been two years since the pandemic started and the overwhelming majority of states do not have a mask requirement, let alone a proof of vaccination requirement, to participate in civic life. But rather than move toward lessening restrictions and allowing their residents to live as freely as their fellow Americans, Chicago and Cook County officials are doubling down on illegal and ineffective measures under the guise of virus containment,” said Suhr, in a prepared statement. “Americans are approaching the two-year anniversary of the first COVID lockdowns and in the rear-view mirror, are realizing the short-sightedness and ineffectiveness of many of these policies.”