Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has announced that the city will loosen its current COVID-19 restrictions as metrics to reopen improve and vaccinations increase.
Meanwhile, Chicago Public Schools will allow schools to hold in-person graduation ceremonies with capacity limits this year.
Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic across Illinois today:
Coronavirus in Illinois: 3,394 New COVID Cases, 38 Deaths, 107K Vaccinations
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Illinois health officials reported 3,394 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases and 38 additional deaths in the last day, along with over 107,000 vaccinations administered.
The newly reported coronavirus cases Thursday bring the state total to 1,331,848 cases since the pandemic began and lift the total death toll to 21,927, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
In the last 24 hours, 89,057 coronavirus test specimens were returned to state laboratories, with more than 22 million now conducted during the pandemic.
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.
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.
Mondays Deemed ‘Restaurant Day' at Cook County Mass Vaccination Sites: Officials
Health officials deemed Mondays as "Restaurant Days" at Cook County mass COVID vaccination sites, with aims to provide vaccines to food service employees.
Beginning May 3, Cook County Health announced officials will specifically encourage all restaurant workers to receive vaccines at area vaccination locations.
For a list of locations, click here.
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: