Chicago and Cook County both announced Thursday they will loosen current COVID-19 restrictions as metrics to reopen improve and vaccinations increase.
So what does that mean for the future of major festivals like Lollapalooza and Pitchfork? Mayor Lori Lightfoot delivered a message of hope.
Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:
Hosting a Wedding, Graduation Party or Private Event in the Chicago Area? Here's What You Need to Know
Graduation and wedding seasons are fast approaching and this year's events will be unlike any other.
While most events were canceled or dramatically scaled down last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, more widely available vaccines and early signs of improvements in COVID metrics have enabled some jurisdictions to loosen restrictions on in-person gatherings.
To learn more on capacity limits and other new guidelines, click here.
Coronavirus in Illinois: 3,207 New COVID Cases, 33 Deaths, 103K Vaccinations
Illinois health officials reported 3,207 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases and 33 additional deaths in the last day, along with over 103,000 vaccinations administered.
The newly reported coronavirus cases Friday bring the state total to 1,335,055 cases since the pandemic began and lift the total death toll to 21,960, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The statewide positivity rate dropped to 3.4% of all tests returning positive results, and the positivity rate for individuals tested in the last seven days remained at 4%, according to IDPH data.
The state reported 103,717 vaccinations administered in the last day, according to the latest data, which brought the seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered to 92,747 doses.
Read more here.
Report: LaSalle Veterans' Home COVID Crisis Response Was ‘Reactive and Chaotic'
Consistent statewide procedures and ongoing drills that target infection response and other emergencies will be routine at Illinois veterans’ homes after COVID-19 caught the LaSalle Veterans’ Home unprepared and claimed 36 lives last fall, the state’s newly appointed director said.
Terry Prince, a 31-year Navy veteran and former senior adviser to the U.S. Surgeon General, has issued a six-point plan for improving readiness at the state’s veterans’ homes in Anna, Manteno, Quincy and LaSalle. The plan follows a blistering investigative report that laid out a string of miscommunications, lax policy and missed opportunities when the pandemic hit the home in LaSalle, 94 miles (151 kilometers) west of Chicago.
The report by the inspector general of the Illinois Department of Human Services, released Friday, noted that despite escaping all traces of the deadly respiratory illness for eight months after it entered Illinois, there was little done to devise protocols for preventing or managing infections. After the first four cases were reported Nov. 1, the virus spread to 60 residents and 43 employees as confused staff operated in an environment that was “inefficient, reactive and chaotic,” the report said.
Read more here.
Navy Pier Begins Phased Reopening on Friday
After remaining closed since Labor Day due to the coronavirus pandemic, Navy Pier begins its phased reopening plan Friday, welcoming visitors back to the iconic Chicago attraction.
The initial phase starting Friday restores public access to the following: parking garages at Navy Pier, Polk Bros Park, Peoples Energy Welcome Pavilion, the pier's North and South docks, Pier Park, select rides and attractions, East End Plaza, tour boats and cruises, the new Sable hotel, and select restaurants at limited capacity.
In celebration of the reopening, Navy Pier will host a 10-minute fireworks show every Saturday in May at 9 p.m. Guests will be allowed to watch the displays from Navy Pier's open spaces.
Read more here.
Chicago Reopening Plan: City Loosens Phase 4 Restrictions as COVID Metrics Improve
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.
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.
Cook County to ‘Ease' Phase 4 Mitigations as COVID Cases Decline, Vaccinations Increase
The Cook County Department of Public Health on Thursday issued revised COVID-19 Phase 4 reopening guidance that eases some mitigations while taking "a cautious approach to reopening suburban Cook County."
The new changes to the current Phase 4 guidelines include:
- Increased indoor restaurant capacity to 50 percent capacity or 100 individuals, whichever is smaller.
- Outdoor social events, such as weddings, proms and potlucks increase to lesser of 50% capacity or 100 people.
- Fully vaccinated people will be exempt from the capacity count for private social events, such as weddings.
- Higher capacity for indoor and outdoor seated spectator events, theater and performing arts in large venues (ticketed and seated) with a capacity of 200 or more to 25 percent. Indoor events with capacity less than 200 stay at 50 percent capacity with no more than 50 people.
- Festivals and general admission outdoor spectator events increase to 15 people per 1,000 square feet.
Chicago's Top Doc Discusses Plans for Vaccine Pass for Summer Events
Chicago's top doctor discussed Thursday how a possible new vaccine pass could impact summer events in the city.
During a press conference, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady clarified what the Vax Pas, potentially coming to the city in May, would mean for residents.
"People took this to mean 'I am going to need to show I am vaccinated to get into any restaurant in Chicago, this is going to be a requirement.' We are not talking about a vaccine passport here," Arwady said. "The Vax Pass concept is to really have activities and events that are incentives for people who choose to get vaccinated."
She added that there could be neighborhood vaccination events, where should residents choose to receive the COVID vaccine, they will get tickets concerts and events.
Will Lolla Happen This Summer? Chicago Mayor Gives Message of Hope
As Chicago announces the return of several summer events as part of its newest reopening plan, what does that mean for the future of major city festivals like Lollapalooza and Pitchfork?
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot declined to say whether the events will go on this year following a cancellation or virtual celebration during the coronavirus pandemic, but she did offer a message of hope.
"What I'm comfortable saying right now is, obviously we're in conversations with the people who have big iconic events over the course of the summer. Those events take a lot of lead time, you can't just flip the switch and turn on something as big as Lolla or some of the other big outdoor events," she said.
"We've been in conversation with them for months. They're obviously closely monitoring where we are and as I've tried to say, many, many times, I believe that the summer of 2021, will look more like 19 than 20. And with our announcement today, I think we're signaling we feel very optimistic, or what the about what the summer is going to look like, including some big events."
Bulls, Blackhawks to Begin Hosting Limited Fans at United Center
Beginning May 7, the Bulls and Blackhawks will begin hosting a limited capacity of fans for games at the United Center, the teams announced Thursday morning.
Each team will host spectators at "approximately 25 percent capacity" with a mandatory mask policy, distanced seating and contactless concessions. Guests will also be required to complete a health screening in the CLEAR app before arrival.
Chicago Will Join Illinois in Moving to Bridge Phase If COVID Metrics Remain Stable
Chicago officials announced Thursday that the city will join the rest of Illinois when the state moves to its Bridge Phase - a new transitional period before a full reopening - if COVID metrics remain stable.
As part of the statewide reopening plan, Illinois officials unveiled the 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 guidelines and a full reopening in Phase 5.
Fully Vaccinated People No Longer Count Toward Capacity Limits at Private Events in Chicago and Cook County
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."
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.
Windy City Smokeout, New State Street Fest: These Summer Events Are Coming to Chicago
Chicago has announced a lineup of festivals and events set to take place this summer in the city as officials begin further reopening during the coronavirus pandemic.
"I'm thrilled to announce that we are able to broadly loosen capacity restrictions across industries, starting today, which allows us to welcome back fans to the United Center, reopen Navy Pier and our lakefront beaches, bring back the Windy City Smokeout, our premiere country music and barbecue festival, as well as a number of summer street festivals and bring back several other loved summer and fall activities, thanks to our new open Chicago initiative," Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced.
Among the list of changes were the return of several events that were canceled last summer due to the pandemic and a lineup of new festivities in celebration of a step closer to normal.
Chicago Public Schools to Allow In-Person Graduation Events
Chicago Public Schools will allow schools to hold in-person graduation ceremonies with capacity limits this year as schools and the city navigate a return to some activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the district said Wednesday.
"As we look for ways to honor our graduates after what's been a very difficult year, the district developed a plan to celebrate graduates while ensuring the safety of each school community," CPS' Chief Schools Officer Bogdana Chkoumbova said during a virtual meeting of the Chicago Board of Education.
Chkoumbova presented two options allowed under CPS' guidelines: social events where mingling may occur and seated spectator events.
COVID Vaccine and Pregnancy, Fertility: The Latest Guidance
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expands its guidance for pregnant women surrounding the coronavirus vaccine, what should women who are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant know about getting vaccinated?
Chicago's top doctor addressed recent news saying data so far has not shown any "safety signals" for pregnant women and their unborn babies.
Read more here.
Chicago Announces Major Changes to United Center Vaccinations Beginning Next Week
Major changes are coming to the United Center's COVID-19 vaccine rollout next week, Chicago's top doctor announced Tuesday.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said this week will be the last chance to receive walk-in Pfizer vaccinations at the United Center, among other modifications.
From May 4 through May 10, the vaccination site will strictly offer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for walk-in appointments, Arwady added. After next week, the center will no longer offer first dose vaccines.
Starting May 8, the United Center will host drive thru vaccinations using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which will likely continue through June, according to Arwady.
Read more here.
CDC Mask Guidelines: Where Do I Need to Wear a Mask?
Federal health officials on Tuesday issued new guidance on mask-wearing as more and more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 every day.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new guidelines say fully vaccinated people don't need to cover their faces outdoors anymore unless they are in a big crowd of strangers, and those who are not vaccinated can go outside without masks in some cases too.
So where should you still wear a mask or face covering?
Here's a look at what officials now recommend, broken down by whether or not you are vaccinated and if it's what the CDC calls the "safest," "less safe" or "least safe" option of the activities mentioned:
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