Chicago on track to ‘cautiously reopen’ starting in early June, Lightfoot says

The lakefront and outdoor performances are among a list of places and activities that could reopen later in phase three, if proper safety measures can be put in place.

SHARE Chicago on track to ‘cautiously reopen’ starting in early June, Lightfoot says
People still were flocking to the lakefront on Wednesday, and not always staying as far apart as they should.

The mayor says the lakefront will reopen before the end of the summer.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

Chicago is on track to enter the third phase of reopening by early June, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Friday, but she said the lakefront’s reopening is still a ways off.

The mayor sees the city soon transitioning from phase two, which requires residents largely stay home, to the “cautiously reopen” phase, which will still require strict physical distancing but allow for some sectors of the economy to start up again. But Lightfoot did not provide a specific date on when the transition could begin — other than in “early June.”

“The reason that we can’t give a precise date is because we’re focused on the public health data, and we’re going to be dictated by that,” she said. “ ... I can’t give you a magic day as I sit here now, as much as I would love to. We just don’t know yet.”

She described the reopening process as similar to “turning a dimmer switch, not flipping a light switch.

Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said reopening the city is based on a decline in new cases and hospitalizations, including in hard-hit African American and Latino communities. Hospital and testing capacity are now nearing city benchmarks, officials said, and there has been progress on increasing contact tracing of coronavirus patients.

Arwady nevertheless encouraged residents to wear face coverings when outside or performing essential tasks and to maintain at least six feet of distance between themselves and others.

Specific guidelines will be released next week and will include details on how businesses can maintain safe working spaces and conditions.

Businesses that are allowed to reopen at limited capacity in early June include the outdoor patios of restaurants and coffee shops; hair and nail salons and barber shops; childcare centers; park facilities; libraries; office-based jobs; and hotels and other lodging.

Mayor wants indoor dining, too

Lightfoot said she thinks the state has “to open up the opportunity for indoor dining with, again some very tight controls,” to help businesses that are “starving.” She and her team have discussed that idea with Gov. J. B. Pritzker, whose is allowing struggling bars and restaurants in other parts other the state serve customers on patios on a limited basis at the end of May.

“Many of them will not survive unless we throw them a lifeline,” Lightfoot said. “ ... It’s going to rain, and then what? And no one can plan, and certainly not plan to have workers there and plan to buy food and all the other things that are important, and take time and money and investment if it’s going to be subject to the vagaries of Mother Nature. So I think that there’s a way in which we can do this safely and I look forward to continuing that discussion.”

The lakefront is among a list of places that could reopen later in phase three, if proper safety measures can be put in place, city officials said. But the “playpen,” where many boaters party north of Navy Pier while anchored on Lake Michigan, will remain closed for the duration of the summer.

While she assured Chicago residents the lakefront won’t be closed all summer, the mayor said figuring out plans for its reopening is “complicated.”

“The lakefront is our jewel, it’s our treasure, but what we know is that people flock en masse to the lakefront,” Lightfoot said. “So when we talk about opening up golf courses, particularly those on the lakefront, then why wouldn’t we open the lakefront, and then why not the beaches, and then why not all the boating — so we’re going to do this in a phased, smart way.”

Other activities on the list of activities to restart or reopen later in phase 3 are summer and youth programs and activities, religious services, gyms, museums and smaller outdoor performances.

An announcement on whether Lollapalooza or other large outdoor festivals scheduled for later in teh summer will be held will be made next week, Lightfoot said.

“For the time being, schools, playgrounds, bars and lounges, and large venues (stadiums, indoor theaters, music venues, convention centers) will remain closed,” the city guidelines say.

“We’ve got to do everything we can to mitigate the risk,” Lightfoot said. “Opening up is not without risk — it is with risk —we expect that there’s going to be some case surge, but we’ve got to do everything that we can to minimize that from happening.”

The coronavirus is “here, it remains here, it remains deadly,” she said.

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