Chicago Mayor Lightfoot Will Ease Some COVID-19 Restrictions Next Week

VIRUS OUTBREAK ILLINOIS CHICAGO CUBS
Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Thursday, April 16, 2020. Nam Y. Huh / AP Photo
VIRUS OUTBREAK ILLINOIS CHICAGO CUBS
Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Thursday, April 16, 2020. Nam Y. Huh / AP Photo

Chicago Mayor Lightfoot Will Ease Some COVID-19 Restrictions Next Week

Chicago is on track to begin reopening more businesses and amenities by June 3, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday.

That means starting next week Wednesday, Chicagoans will be able to eat outdoors at cafes and restaurants, shop at nonessential retailers, get haircuts and even head back into the office — all with safety guidelines and capacity limits in place to lower the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Entering the next phase of Chicago’s five-phase reopening plan also means that parents can begin sending children back to daycare, though day care providers will be capped at how many kids they can watch at once.

Most of Illinois will enter a less restrictive phase of the state-wide reopening framework starting on Friday. But the city will have slightly stricter reopening rules than the rest of the state, including 25% capacity limits at nonessential stores and 50% capacity limits at essential businesses, like grocery stores. 

But even as she praised Chicagoans for following social distancing guidelines that have made more reopening possible under her plan, Lightfoot issued a warning.

“COVID-19 is still very much part of our present,” the mayor said. “I can’t emphasize this enough. And as we reopen, please understand that we’re doing so with the full knowledge that we can not eliminate risk of this virus.”

Lightfoot also announced the city would begin to reopen some Park District facilities and libraries starting on June 8. Chicagoans also will have to wait a bit longer before they enjoy cocktails to-go, following a vote by the legislature last week to allow bars and restaurants hard-hit by the pandemic to sell carry-out mixed drinks. That plan needs local City Council approval, which Lightfoot suggested will happen in mid-June.

Until Wednesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot will keep in place her city-wide restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19, even as Gov. JB Pritzker is set to ease portions of his stay-at-home order for the rest of the state starting Friday.

But the city has a different, more detailed set of public health benchmarks Lightfoot wants met before moving to Phase 3 of her five-phase reopening plan. Chicago officials are publicly tracking the city’s progress on those benchmarks.

As of Thursday, one of the city’s self-imposed metrics still had not been met: a 15% community positivity rate. That is the percentage of tests that come back positive from the general population, not counting positive tests from potential hot spots like nursing homes or the Cook County Jail. Previously, Lightfoot wanted the community positivity rate to stay below 15% for two weeks before moving to Phase 3.

But despite not meeting one of her own self-imposed metrics, Lightfoot is plowing ahead.

It’s not clear when Lightfoot will reopen the Lakefront, Riverwalk and popular 606 trail, though she said Thursday it would be “later in Phase 3.” The mayor also declined to speculate whether professional sports teams will be allowed to play before fans this summer, though she suspected they may have to perform before empty stands for at least part of the season.

As of Wednesday, Chicago had 43,716 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 2,020 deaths.