People who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will no longer count toward capacity limits at private events like weddings and parties in Chicago and suburban Cook County, officials announced Thursday.
The change, effective immediately in Chicago and beginning Friday in Cook County, brings both jurisdictions in line with the updated Phase 4 guidelines Illinois health officials announced last month.
When Illinois officials unveiled the state's updated reopening plan in March, they said "individuals with proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test (PCR) 1-3 days prior to an event or outing do not count against capacity limits."
Full coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it impacts you
People are fully vaccinated once they are 14 days past receiving their final vaccine dose, officials say.
In Chicago, events where this new guidance applies must be held at a licensed business, cannot be open to the public and guests must RSVP prior to the event, city officials said.
Business owners will be responsible for verifying that exempted guests are fully vaccinated and keep records, Mayor Lori Lightfoot's office said, adding that the city "will consider expanding this exemption to other industries in the coming weeks, provided that our COVID-19 metrics continue to improve."
The adjustment to the city's reopening plan was announced as part of several changes to loosen restrictions. The other changes 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.
Cook county's new relaxed mitigations mirror the city's as well.
Chicago and Cook County officials last updated their respective reopening guidance in late March, keeping most indoor restrictions in place, but increasing outdoor capacity limits at some establishments as the area 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.