Chicago has entered a second wave of the coronavirus, officials say, with rising cases and positivity rates prompting the city to rollback its reopening progress - a dramatic change from where the city was one week earlier.
As of Thursday, Chicago's top doctor said the city was averaging 645 new cases per day.
"But that's a seven-day rolling average," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. "And we've already had multiple days with 800 or even 900 cases coming in. And the numbers are still going up."
Just one week ago, the city was at 418 cases per day. That marks an increase of 54% in a single week.
It's true the city has also been testing more than ever before, but officials say testing cannot entirely explain the sharp spike.
The test positivity rate in Chicago on Thursday sat at 6.4%. One week ago, that number was 4.6%.
"We're at 7% per the state numbers, because there can be some delay in terms of when numbers are coming in," Arwady said.
The rise in cases also comes with a "worrying increase" in hospitalizations, officials said.
According to city data, hospitalizations for non-ICU COVID patients and suspected cases were up 45% since Sept. 22. At that time, the city was averaging 249 people being hospitalized for coronavirus.
As of Monday, that number had climbed to 314 cases. On Thursday, the average was up to 360 cases in hospitals.
"Our most recent day is at 460," Arwady said. "We are hearing across Chicago, we're hearing from our hospitals that they're starting their COVID teams back up again."
In addition, according to the city's reopening metrics - which look at cases, hospitalizations, deaths and emergency department visits - Chicago was "green" less than two weeks ago.
"Everything was looking good," Arwady said. "When we were up here on Monday, we were in yellow, meaning that we'd seen an increase between one and 14 days. But we are now solidly in red, which means it's time to pull back."
Chicago will once again shut down indoor bar service and force non-essential businesses to limit hours as city officials warn a second surge of the coronavirus is underway.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the new restrictions during a Thursday briefing, suspending indoor bar service just weeks after reopening such establishments as colder weather begins to limit outdoor options.
The restrictions will also force non-essential businesses to close their doors by 10 p.m.
The newest restrictions, which take effect at 6 a.m. Friday and continue for at least two weeks, include:
- Business curfew on non-essential businesses beginning at 10 p.m.
- In effect nightly from 10 p.m. -6 a.m.
- Last call for serving liquor at 9 p.m.
- Take-out and curb-side pick-up at restaurants still permitted
- Bars, breweries, and taverns without a food license are prohibited from operating any indoor service
- Increased emphasis of current guidelines
- Max. 6 people in your personal bubble (e.g., no household gatherings >6 people of non-household members)
- Face coverings in all indoor and outdoor public settings
The city warned that if the positivity rate increases above 8% for three straight days, indoor dining will be suspended as well.
"We are no doubt, whatsoever in the second surge," Lightfoot said Thursday. "This is what it looks like."
She said while the surge is not surprising, she attributed it largely to the fact that COVID thrives in places "where people let their guard down."
Lightfoot had warned Monday that some phase three restrictions could be brought back as the city enters a "second surge" of coronavirus.
The city has been in phase four of its reopening plan since June 26.
Then on July 24, city officials changed course to shut down indoor bar service, reduce capacity limits at fitness classes and heighten other restrictions as the city continued to see an increase in its average number of daily new cases.
Lightfoot and Arwady last month announced that the city would ease some of the restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus during phase four, allowing indoor bar service again and raising capacity limits on businesses, including restaurants, among other major changes.
The changes that took effect on Oct. 1 included increasing indoor capacity at restaurants, health and fitness centers, personal services, non-essential retail and all other establishments from 25% to 40%.
Bars, breweries, taverns and other businesses that serve alcohol without a food license could also open indoor seating - shut down since late July - at 25% capacity up to 50 people, officials said.