Chicago set to move on to next phase of reopening Friday

Chicago News

CHICAGO – Chicago will move on to the next phase of its coronavirus reopening plan when all of Illinois moves on to Phase 4 on Friday, officials said Monday, although the city’s plan differs slightly from the rest of the state.

As part of Phase 4 in Chicago, the following places can reopen with certain restrictions, including capacity limits of 25 percent, face coverings worn by employees and customers, and caps on group sizes of up to 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors:

  • Bars and restaurants can begin offering indoor seating
  • Zoos reopen but reservations required
  • Movie theaters, museums and performance venues like theaters and clubs reopen
  • Summer camps and other youth activities can resume – kids aren’t required to wear masks during classes, but there will be health screenings and stable “cohorts” of kids
  • Places of worship can resume in-person services
  • Gyms can reopen and offer indoor fitness classes, face coverings required

Industries that require “very large gatherings” like sporting events and conventions will remain closed. Playgrounds, beaches and pools will remain closed as well.

Chicago’s industry-specific guidelines for reopening are all available online.

These guidelines differ slightly from those outlined in the state’s “Restore Illinois” plan because its considered higher risk than other areas, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday.

“The challenges Chicago faces in safely navigating this crisis are unique and different from the rest of the state for reasons you’d expect: we’re denser, more residents take public transit, and we’re an international air hub,” Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot said adherence to guidelines has saved “thousands” of lives, but COVID-19, “is still very much part of our present in Chicago, and it will be for the forseeable future.”

WATCH ABOVE: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady outline Phase Four of the City’s reopening plan

“Every single zip code in Chicago saw new cases of COVID-19 just last week,” Lightfoot said.

Officials reiterated warnings there could be a resurgence if people don’t follow social distancing guidelines, and a spike in cases could lead the city to move back to Phase 3. Included among these guidelines is physically distancing and wearing a face covering.

Additionally, anyone who is considered vulnerable, feels ill or has come into contact with someone with COVID-19 should stay home.

What Phase 4 looks like in one restaurant

At Wood, a popular restaurant in Lakeview, owner Franco Gianni says he’s removed a number of tables to meet the city’s standards, as well as replaced tablecloths with butcher paper that will be changed with every new guest.  

Each table will also have hand sanitizer, and masks will be required to enter, but customers can take them off while they eat. And they can opt for disposable silverware if they’d like. 

“Every phase that we move into is an exciting step,” Gianni said. “It’s entirely up to the guest who comes in if they want to come in, and feel safe moving forward.”

Some people say they’ll take it slow, even as they’re excited by a sure sign of progress in the pandemic.

“I think I won’t be in the first wave of folks coming out, I think I want to test the waters a little bit,” said Lakeview resident Alexandra Evangelou. “I’m just excited to see this entire neighborhood coming back to life again.”

Why officials say Chicago is ready to move on to Phase 4

To move into Phase 4, Chicago health officials set a requirement of stable or declining cases along with a goal of reaching fewer than 200 new COVID-19 cases per day, which it has now achieved, with a current 7-day average of 167 new cases per day.

Based on the city’s population and national metrics from the CDC, this will move Chicago from a high-incidence to a moderate-high incidence level, officials said.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the city hit its metrics for moving on to the next phase of reopening earlier than expected, and as numbers continue to decline it could reopen further during Phase 4.

The number of COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations have been trending downward since early May, Arwady said, and the positivity rate of coronavirus tests is at 4.9 percent as of Monday, below the city’s goal of 7 percent. Arwady said 90 percent of COVID-19 cases are assigned to contact tracers within 24 hours as well.

Arwady said as of Monday there are around 2,000 active infections “that we know about” in Chicago at any given time, but since many cases are not diagnosed, the number of coronavirus-related deaths suggests there may be as many as 10,000 active infections at a time.

“This is why we’re setting… that gathering limit at 50 because that’s the 15 percent chance that someone in that group has COVID-19 and may not know it,” Arwady said.

Arwady said when Chicago gets to a “moderate incident state” of 50-99 cases a day, the city can move to 50 percent indoor capacity and an indoor limit of 100 people, because the risk of there being someone with a case of COVID-19 in that gathering “gets cut in half.”

“Us continuing to do the things that we know work are what will allow us to continue to make steps forward in Phase 4,” Arwady said.

However, Arwady said reopening pools and playgrounds this summer is a difficult proposition, as face coverings can’t be worn at pools and playgrounds are “impossible” from a social distancing perspective, since they are not cleaned and kids end up being grouped together.

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