On Jan. 3, if you want to eat inside a restaurant or drink inside a bar in suburban Cook County, if you want to go to a movie and enjoy a bucket of popcorn, if you want to head to the gym and huff and puff through your workout, you’ll need to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19.

For the most part, you’ll see the owners of those businesses, who come in close and lengthy contact with members of the public and put them in close proximity to one another, happy to comply.

As Martin Lynch, the owner of Irish Times in Brookfield, told our food editor, Melissa Elsmo, this week, “A vaccine requirement for staff and customers will only help to speed our exit from this whole pandemic.”

We agree fully with that perspective. We’re all in favor of requiring citizens to provide proof of full vaccination – that’s three shots if you’re eligible – before they stroll into a restaurant, movie theater, fitness center, music venue. Extend it to airplanes, too. This all should have been implemented months back.

The concept is simple. COVID kills people. We have a powerful tool in vaccines that does a remarkable job of preventing serious illness or death from COVID and its variants. Rational people have taken this proactive, life-affirming step. 

They deserve to be protected by government, by businesses, by churches, by restaurants, theaters, gyms and nightclubs from an irrational minority of people who have turned a worldwide pandemic into some sort of a political proving ground for the deranged.

Segregating those people from the rest of us so that we can move toward some changed sense of normal life makes perfect sense. We have no second thoughts on this. We have no sympathy for those unvaccinated without a legitimate reason for it. We don’t want them sitting near us, coughing on our popcorn at the North Riverside XQ.

If the minority will not permit themselves to be persuaded then they must be separated. They’re the ones making the choice.

Our concern, our only concern, is for the health – mental and physical – of those working in these businesses who must enforce proof of vaccination. Chris Johnson, CEO of Classic Cinemas with movie theaters in North Riverside and Oak Park, states what is clear. It is very difficult to hire people in this moment. Needing to hire more people to enforce this mandate will not be simple.

We’ll close with this hopeful quote from Johnson: “The majority of people are rule-followers, whatever the rules are. … There’s always a small percentage of people who try to get away with something, but the majority of the public is pretty good.”

Pray that he is right.