FILE - restaurant, Illinois, Navy Pier, Virus Outbreak No Masks Illinois

People enjoy their time in an outside sitting area of a restaurant in Chicago's Navy Pier Friday, May 14, 2021. 

(The Center Square) – An Illinois doctor says the quickest way for restaurants to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic is to vaccinate and mask-up employees.

Restaurants across the state are still allowed to make their own rules regarding vaccination status for employees and patrons.

During a National Restaurant Association webinar Thursday, Dr. Vishnu Chundi from the Chicago Medical Society said restaurant workers who are hesitant to get the vaccine should rest easy.

“Two hundred years of vaccines, there’s not been been a single case of unknown side effects after two months that are significant,” Chundi said. “This vaccine is continuing to do the same thing. All of this misinformation about so many deaths and all that, that is because they have not been culled through to see if these are real deaths with the vaccine.”

State and local mandates requiring proof of vaccination and face coverings to dine indoors are on the rise nationwide. Chicago diners and bar patrons will once more be required to wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status, while dining indoors beginning Aug. 20.

Industry officials worry mask mandates and a rise in COVID-19 cases may prevent people from dining out.

Illinois Restaurant Association CEO Sam Toia told Eater he worries the Restaurant Revitalization Fund has run dry. On top of that, the industry continues to struggle to find workers. According to the National Restaurant Association, there were 12.5 million restaurant employees at the end of last year, which was down more than 3 million from expected levels.

In an effort to help short-staffed bars and restaurants, Elk Grove Village officials are allowing 19 and 20-year-olds to serve alcohol.

In what could be good news for the industry, Chundi believes the end is not far off for the delta variant.

“Because of vaccination and how quickly the virus spreads and burns through people and gives them some partial immunity, we expect by October, November the case rates to fall significantly,” Chundi said.

Staff Reporter

Kevin Bessler reports on statewide issues in Illinois for the Center Square. He has over 30 years of experience in radio news reporting throughout the Midwest.