Chicago is on track to transition to the next phase of its reopening plan — when more businesses and public spaces could open — by mid-June, but the specific date is unknown right now, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Friday.
“I can’t give you a magic date as I sit here now, as much as I would love to,” Lighfoot said. “We just don’t know yet.”
That’s because Chicago’s plan hinges on the city’s continued progress on testing at least 4,500 people a day for COVID-19 while keeping the positive case rate — the percentage of people who test positive for the virus — on a downward trend.
Some nonessential businesses and public spaces could resume limited operations by mid-June, Lightfoot estimated. This would include child care centers and in-home child care, hair salons and barber shops, restaurants and coffee shops (for outdoor service), professional services and offices and nonessential retail. Industry specific guidelines for businesses are expected to be released next week, she said. The guidelines will detail how employees should safely interact with customers and safe distancing rules in workspaces.
To help businesses buy proper protective gear for their employees, the city is partnering with Rheaply, a local startup, to build what the mayor is calling the “Chicago PPE Market.” It’s scheduled to launch next week and is designed to make essential protective gear such as masks and hand sanitizer easily available and affordable.
Public spaces like parks, golf courses west of Lake Shore Drive and city libraries could also reopen during this period. Save for limited boating, the Lakefront will remain closed until further notice. Lightfoot said she doesn’t want a repeat of what she saw back in March when “thousands of people mobbed the Lakefront.”
If the city continues to hit its health benchmarks, religious services, gyms, summer camps and limited-capacity outdoor performances could begin reopening to the public “later” in the next phase. That phase would also include the reopening of the Lakefront. But once again, Lightfoot didn’t give exact dates for what that time frame would be. A release from her office indicated that those openings depended on yet further improvements to the city’s health criteria and adherence to policies
Under the elements of her plan, schools, playgrounds and large venues will remain closed, “for the time being,” according to her office’s release.
Minutes before the mayor’s availability, President Donald Trump reclassified houses of worship as “essential services,” putting them on par with grocery stores and giving them the green light to reopen. But Lightfoot criticized the move, saying Trump was “pandering to a base” as he gears up for his reelection this fall.
“I think we have to recognize virtually everything he says has a political undertone and basis for it,” Lightfoot said.
Claudia Morell covers city politics for WBEZ. Follow @claudiamorell.