Lightfoot wants to reopen bars and restaurants as soon as possible

“We are at the point where we need to be talking about when and not if,” Lightfoot said.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot talks about COVID-19 vaccinations Thursday at Richard J. Daley College, the first of six mass distribution sites opening in the city.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot talks about COVID-19 vaccinations Thursday at Richard J. Daley College, the first of six mass distribution sites opening in the city.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday she’s seeking to reopen Chicago’s bars and restaurants for indoor service as soon as possible.

“If we look at the various criteria that the state has set, we are meeting most, if not all of those, so that’s a conversation that I will have with the governor,” she said.

“We are at the point where we need to be talking about when and not if.”

Easing restrictions on indoor service would provide a safer outlet for people to socialize and possibly cut down on underground parties where attendees do not social distance or wear masks, she said.

Indoor dining was suspended in November during a COVID-19 surge.

Under Illinois rules, a COVID positivity rate of 6.5% or less is needed for three straight days in Chicago to reopen limited indoor dining.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office pointed out Chicago isn’t there yet.

“As the governor announced last week, beginning tomorrow, regions who meet the metrics to go back to lower tiers in the resurgence mitigation plan will be allowed to do so. Currently, the City of Chicago and Cook County do not meet the metrics to return to previous tiers,” Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said in an email.

“Throughout the response to this pandemic the governor has relied on the public health experts to craft mitigation to prevent the spread of this deadly virus. As always, the governor welcomes input from local officials, but has not heard from Mayor Lightfoot on this matter and looks forward to her call,” she said.

Sam Toia, head of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said he planned to speak with the governor’s staff Thursday and hoped the reopening metric could be eased to a single-digit positivity rate for three straight days.

“We thinkwe know how to do this right with social distancing, masks and sanitation. We’re asking for limitedindoor dining,” he said. “We just want to come to a pragmatic solution.”

The Chicago Restaurants Coalition on Thursday repeated its call for restoring indoor dining at 20% capacity by Jan. 29. The group cited a joint Northwestern University and Stanford University study, which found capping indoor dining at 20% reduces the number of new infections by more than 80% compared to fully reopening.

Lightfoot’s comments came during a news conference at Richard J. Daley College, one of six city colleges that will serve as mass vaccination sites capable of administering up to 25,000 shots a week.

Lightfoot also expressed frustration with the federal government for not providing Chicago with enoughvaccine doses, with about 38,000 doses received last week, 32,000 this week and 34,550 expected next week.

“At that rate, Chicago won’t be vaccinated for a year and half and that is completely unacceptable,” she said.

Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s top health official, said she’s optimistic about thesituation.

“We’re hearing a lot of good, promising talk at the federal level. We’re hearing the incomingadministration talk about pushing additional doses, we’re hearing the outgoing administrationtalk about making all doses available,” but they have yet to arrive, she said.

The city and state are still in the first phase of administering vaccine to health care workers and residents and staff of long-term nursing facilities.

People 65 or older and a slew of essential workers will be next in line. Arwady didn’t provide a specific date but said she’s “expecting shortly” to begin the next phase of vaccinations. Residents can get vaccination program updates at chicago.gov/covidvax.

Lightfoot sought to eliminate any skepticism about getting the vaccine.

“And just so you hear from me, our COVID vaccine is safe. Period. I personally look forward to getting my vaccine soon,” she said.

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