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Lightfoot extends stay-home advisory to Jan. 22, same as state mandate

The mayor denied the extension runs contrary to her decision to begin the gradual reopening of Chicago Public Schools because “from the very beginning, schools were exempted from the stay-at-home advisory,” she said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks to reporters Thursday about her decision to close the Lakefront Trail, the downtown Riverwalk and other major public gathering places amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city is on the right track, but extending the stay-home advisory to align with state guidance is the right thing to do.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

If Chicago Public Schools are safe enough to re-open for pre-K and special education students, why are the rest of us being advised to stay home through Jan. 22?

That was the question Monday as Mayor Lori Lightfoot touted the twice-delayed CPS reopening for roughly 77,000 students whose parents have “opted in,” instead of continuing to have their children learn remotely.

It seemed like a disconnect. The mayor insisted it is not.

“Recall that, from the very beginning, schools were exempted from the stay-at-home advisory,” the mayor told reporters at a morning news conference.

Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady added: “If you look at the language of that stay-at-home advisory, it’s about ‘essential.’ We specifically say people who are going to work, who are going to school or who are performing other essential activities should continue to do those. But if there are things that are not essential, we have asked people to limit that.”

A preschool student gets her temperature checked as she walks into Dawes Elementary School on the Southwest Side on Monday, the first day of optional in-person learning for preschoolers and some special education students.
A preschool student gets her temperature checked as she walks into Dawes Elementary School on the Southwest Side on Monday, the first day of optional in-person learning for preschoolers and some special education students.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia | Sun-Times

Two weeks before Thanksgiving, Lightfoot issued the stay-home advisory and slapped a mandatory, 10-person lid on social gatherings to control a second surge of coronavirus cases that was worse than the first.

That same day, she implored Chicagoans not to gather with extended family for Thanksgiving.

“While this is tough, this whole year has been tough. You must cancel the normal Thanksgiving plans,” Lightfoot said that day.

“If we continue on the path we’re on and you, me and others don’t step up and do more ... we could see at least a thousand more Chicagoans die” by year’s end.

Monday, the mayor and her health commissioner painted a far more optimistic picture of the pandemic in Chicago.

“When we put the stay-at-home advisory in place, we were seeing a really troubling increase in cases, percent positivity. Since November when it peaked, we have been coming back down — even through Thanksgiving, then Christmas and New Year’s. So, we are making steady progress,” she said.

“We extended [the advisory] to make sure it was aligned with what the state was doing. But we are making significant progress.”

Arwady agreed Chicago is “in a much, much better place than we were and, in fact, we’re doing much better than the majority of the country.”

The gradual reopening Lightfoot has likened to a dimmer switch is now back to Tier 2 by statewide order. That required restaurants to close indoor dining rooms a second time.

Indoor dining at Chicago restaurants — limited to 25% capacity — can begin June 26.
Indoor dining remains banned at Chicago restaurants.
Sun-Times file

Lightfoot can order stronger measures in Chicago, but can’t be more lax than state rules.

“Our hospital numbers look good here in Chicago. We are under that 12% positivity. [But] the governor and the state have signaled that they want to watch, sort of, the stabilization after New Year’s, which I’m in agreement with,” Arwady said.

“I do want people to understand, though, that the mitigation comes in steps. … If we’re able to back out of that [Tier 2], that doesn’t yet bring us to indoor dining, for example. It doesn’t yet completely open things back up.”

Arwady said vaccination of Chicago Public School teachers will likely begin in February or March — but only after all health care workers get both doses of vaccine.