As Chicago re-enters Phase 4, non-essential curfew lifted but indoor capacity won’t change, mayor says

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement over the weekend that a rush to expand capacity too quickly would be “irresponsible.”

SHARE As Chicago re-enters Phase 4, non-essential curfew lifted but indoor capacity won’t change, mayor says
Mayor Lori Lightfoot held a news conference Thursday to discuss additional assistance for struggling bars and restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic.

Although Chicago’s COVID-19 positivity rate has been less than or equal to 6.5% for three consecutive days, Mayor Lightfoot said she’s not ready to expand seating capacities in the city’s freshly opened bars and restaurants.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

State officials announced Sunday that Chicago has made enough progress in the fight against COVID-19 to re-enter Phase 4 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s statewide resurgence plan, but Chicago’s recently reopened bars and restaurants will remain at their current capacity.

Chicago’s coronavirus testing positivity rate remained below 6.5% for a third consecutive day, clearing the way for Chicago to leave the state’s Tier 1 restrictions and enter Phase 4 for the first time since November.

The city moved to Tier 1 last week, allowing bars and restaurants to seat customers indoors at either 25% of capacity or 25 people per room, whichever is less.

Under Phase 4, establishments are allowed to operate at 50% capacity or serve less than 50 people at once, whichever is less, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement Saturday a rush to expand capacity too quickly would be “irresponsible.”

“With cases and positivity rates still higher than before the second surge, now is the time to keep safeguards in place to ensure continued progress and hopefully prevent any rollbacks in the future,” the mayor said.

Under Phase 4, indoor recreational businesses such as bowling alleys and skating rinks are able to re-open and operate at either 40% capacity or have less than 50 customers, whichever is less, and establishments must stop serving alcohol at 11 p.m. and close by midnight, state officials said. Multiple groups may also meet in the same place, as long as they are social distanced and in different rooms.

More than half of the state’s 11 regions have re-entered Phase 4, with south suburban Will and Kankakee counties on pace to join the majority in that phase Monday. Meanwhile, Regions 8, 9 and 10 — which cover suburban Cook County and the north and west suburbs — are still under Tier 1 mitigations, and the Metro East region is under Tier 2.

This comes as Illinois’ seven-day positivity rate dropped to its lowest point in almost four months on Sunday.

State health officials announced 2,428 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, which were diagnosed among the 86,871 tests reported to the Illinois Department of Public Health in the last day for a daily positivity rate of about 2.8%. That’s the fewest new cases recorded in a day since Oct. 6.

The statewide positivity rate is down to 3.9%, falling below 4% for the first time since Oct. 9. That figure, which experts use to gauge how rapidly the virus is spreading, has been on a steady decline since its January peak at 8.6% on Jan. 4 and has dropped nearly a full percentage point over the last week.

State health official also announced another 36,851 coronavirus vaccines were administered Saturday, bringing the state’s total of vaccines issued to 981,988. About 16% of those shots were given to people at long-term care facilities.

As the vaccine distribution continues, COVID-19 hospitalizations in Illinois have returned to the level they were before a late fall resurgence devastated the state. As of Saturday, 2,467 beds were occupied statewide by coronavirus patients, with 538 of those patients in intensive care units and 289 on ventilators, officials said.

The virus has still claimed about 70 lives on average per day over the last week. On Sunday, health officials reported an additional 40 virus-related deaths.

More than half of Sunday’s fatalities were reported in the Chicago area, including a Cook County woman in her 30s and two Cook County men in their 40s.

Over the last 11 months, more than 1.1 million people in Illinois have contracted the respiratory virus, and 19,203 of them have died. The state boasts a 98% recovery rate.

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