Chicago will fully reopen on June 11, when the rest of the state does, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday.
Restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses will no longer have capacity restrictions, as the state moves into so-called “Phase 5” of Gov. JB Pritzker’s reopening plan. Masks will still be required in certain places and for unvaccinated people.
“Before people uncork the champagne and have beers all around, a note of caution: COVID is still here,” Lightfoot said on Facebook Live with Chicago’s public health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.
“There will be masks still required on public transit, in schools, and healthcare settings and certainly there will be some businesses that decide to continue having mask policies, and people are going to be making their own decisions,” Arwady said. “The recommendation remains that somebody who is not vaccinated should continue to wear a mask.”
As of Thursday, the city’s case positivity rate was 2% with an average of 135 new cases per day. Just over 50% of Chicagoans have gotten at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, with most recent shots going into the arms of teenagers. Children aged 12 and up became eligible for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on May 12.
Lightfoot and Arwady urged people to continue getting vaccinated and said they want to get 70% of Chicagoans vaccinated, a goal shared by President Joe Biden.
“It’s the areas that are less vaccinated that I’m the most concerned about,” Arwady said. “There is a higher possibility for variants to emerge in areas that are less vaccinated, and if this virus does turn out to have some seasonality, like when we think of the flu season being more of a problem in the fall and the winter, if that turns out to be something that we see with COVID as well, the way this would show up would be in heavily unvaccinated neighborhoods.”
More than a year ago, Pritzker and Lightfoot shut down nonessential businesses and ordered residents to stay at home. Those initial restrictions began to loosen last summer, but with very specific guidelines. Restaurants had to rearrange dining rooms to keep people at least six feet apart. Gyms had to cancel all group fitness classes. The popular Lakefront trail and beaches got barricaded off. Masks were required everywhere.
Restrictions have loosened and tightened over the last year in response to COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. But once vaccines were authorized for emergency use and epidemiological data started trending downward, government leaders began talking about when businesses could fully reopen.
Becky Vevea covers city hall for WBEZ. Follow her @beckyvevea.