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Coronavirus live blog, Jan. 23, 2021: Limited indoor dining cleared for Chicago bars, restaurants

Here’s Saturday’s news on how COVID-19 is impacting Chicago and Illinois.

A day after officials said both regions were “on track” for limited reopening, the city and Cook County suburbs saw their coronavirus infection rates improve for a third straight day to officially move from Tier 2 to Tier 1 of the state’s COVID-19 mitigation plan.

The coronavirus isn’t over yet. Here’s what happened today that you need to know.


News

Eamonn Vaughan, owner of Chicago Brewhouse, rearranges the restaurant’s patio to encourage social distancing on June 12, 2020.
Eamonn Vaughan, owner of Chicago Brewhouse, rearranges the restaurant’s patio to encourage social distancing on June 12, 2020.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times,

3:15 p.m. Chicago bars, restaurants officially cleared to reopen for limited indoor service Saturday

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s health team officially gave the green light Saturday for restaurants and most bars across Chicago and suburban Cook County to invite customers back inside for indoor service.

A day after officials said both regions were “on track” for limited reopening, the city and Cook County suburbs saw their coronavirus infection rates improve for a third straight day to officially move from Tier 2 to Tier 1 of the state’s COVID-19 mitigation plan.

Tier 1 allows for restaurants and bars that serve food to seat customers indoors at the lesser of 25% capacity or 25 people per room. Bars that don’t serve food aren’t allowed to reopen in Chicago unless they partner with a restaurant to deliver on site.

With coronavirus testing positivity rates and hospital admissions down to their lowest levels since October, Pritzker loosened his requirements last weekend for regions to begin lifting restrictions on indoor service.

Read the full story here.

12:53 p.m. Statewide coronavirus positivity rate dips below 5% for first time in 3 months as Chicago restaurants reopen

As Chicago bar and restaurant owners were allowed to open their doors for the first time in almost three months Saturday, Illinois public health officials announced COVID-19 has spread to 5,152 more people and killed an additional 97 residents statewide.

The latest cases were detected among 110,178 tests submitted to the Illinois Department of Public Health, lowering the state’s seven-day average positivity rate to 4.9% — and marking the first day since Oct. 15 that key indicator of transmission has fallen below 5%.

After an unprecedented autumn resurgence that saw the average positivity rate soar over 13%, most of the state’s infection numbers have moved in the right direction since the holidays.

The positivity rate is still higher than it was over the summer, when it hovered around 3%, but it’s been on a sharp decline since Jan. 7.

Mitchell Armentrout has the full story.

8:45 a.m. One in five eligible students returned for in-person learning, CPS data shows

Only 19% of students eligible for the first wave of in-person learning returned to classrooms when Chicago Public Schools reopened this month for the first time during the pandemic, according to new data released by the district, falling well short of city officials’ hopes.

The worrying attendance data comes as CPS tries to forge ahead with a school reopening plan that faces heavy opposition from the Chicago Teachers Union, which this weekend could announce its intentions to disobey orders for 10,000 more teachers and staff to return to in-person work next week.

Manny Ramos and Nader Issa have the full story.

7 a.m. A year since COVID came to Chicago, and, despite difficulties, people have found ways to manage

A year ago Sunday, the city’s top public health official announced the first case of the novel coronavirus in Illinois — a Chicago woman who’d recently returned from a trip to Wuhan, China.

In a calm, cheerful voice, Dr. Allison Arwady said it was an isolated case and that the risk to the public “remains low at this time.”

That last part might have given some pause. But even in early March, people were being told there was no need to wear masks or stop enjoying life as we always had.

A year later, almost nothing is as it was before. Yet people have found ways to cope, to survive, even thrive.

Stefano Esposito has the full story.


New cases

  • Health officials reported 5,152 new cases of COVID-19 detected among 110,178 tests Saturday.
  • The state also announced another 97 deaths attributed to COVID-19 Saturday.

Analysis and commentary

8:19 a.m. Take it from Gwen. Get the vaccine

My faithful readers know that Gwen Washington, 87, is feisty and fearless. My mother, as they say, “don’t take no stuff.”

She demands what is rightfully hers, and then some, from the store manager at her neighborhood Walgreens to powerful Chicago politicians. She has stood toe-to-toe with former Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Now we are hearing about “vaccine hesitancy,” especially among African Americans and other people of color.

Gwen isn’t hesitant. She is a self-appointed ambassador for the COVID-19 vaccine. “I would advise anyone who is African American to take the shot,” she says.

Read Laura Washington’s full column here.