Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday announced that the city will loosen its current COVID-19 restrictions as the city has both improved its metrics to reopen and increased vaccinations.
“Despite the unimaginable challenges that were thrown our way last year, we were still able to persist and come together to slow and stop the spread of this virus and put our city on the right path toward a safe reopening," Lightfoot said in a statement.
The new changes to the current Phase 4 guidelines include:
- Restaurants and bars: Indoor capacity can increase to the lesser of 50% or 100 people.
- Spectator events, theater, and performing arts: Large indoor venues, including the United Center, can now operate at 25% capacity.
- Meetings, conferences, and conventions: Large indoor venues can now operate at the lesser of 25% or 250 people.
- Places of worship: Large indoor venues can now operate at 25% capacity.
- Festivals and general admission outdoor spectator events: Operate at 15 people per 1,000 sq. ft.
- Flea and farmers markets: Operate at 25% capacity or 15 people per 1,000 sq. ft.
Under the new guidelines, some regulations remain in place, officials said, like the requirement to keep six feet of social distancing and that face coverings can be removed only in limited circumstances.
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City officials also said Thursday that people who are fully vaccinated - 14 days after receiving their final vaccine dose - will not count toward capacity limits at private events like weddings. Officials said the city would consider expanding the exemption to other industries in the coming weeks if metrics continue to improve.
Chicago officials last updated the reopening guidance in late March, keeping most indoor restrictions in place, but increasing outdoor capacity limits at some establishments as the city faced "worrying increases" in COVID-19 metrics.
Chicago officials said Thursday that the city has made "significant progress in reversing the worrying rise in our COVID-19 metrics that started in March and caused the City to pause our cautious reopening plan."
As part of the statewide reopening plan, Illinois officials unveiled a new Bridge Phase last month, announcing new metrics and guidelines that will allow for higher capacity limits at places like museums, zoos and spectator events as well as increased business operations during a transitional period between the current Phase 4 and a full reopening in Phase 5.
While the state has since reached the vaccination metrics required to advance from Phase 4 to the Bridge Phase, increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have prevented the state from moving into the new phase.
Chicago officials said Thursday that if the city's reopening metrics "remain stable or continue to decrease for the next two weeks" and the city reaches criteria set by the state, Chicago will join Illinois in moving to the Bridge Phase.