As the city of Chicago prepares to ease COVID restrictions, including proof-of-vaccination requirements and mask mandates, business owners and customers are expressing hope that the decision is a sign that the city is moving forward.
At Artango Restaurant in Lincoln Square, the owners and customers alike were delighted with Tuesday’s news that the city will remove most of its COVID restrictions on Feb. 28.
“We are really happy about it,” Javier Lopinto said. “After two years, we are ready to take it out and show our smiles and faces. We’re really happy.”
The city’s plan to drop its proof-of-vaccination and mask mandates on Feb. 28 aligns with both suburban Cook County and the state of Illinois.
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COVID metrics that the city was keeping an eye on to help make determinations on whether to roll back mitigations show that Chicago is indeed progressing in several key areas, with hospitalizations at a low watermark not seen since August and the city’s positivity rate now at 1.5%, well below what the CDC deems a “lower transmission” risk for the virus.
Many Chicago residents are in favor of the decision to reverse the mitigations, saying that the city’s plans line up with what the data is showing.
“You wanna do what makes sense,” Gary Wald said. “And put restrictions in place when things ramp up. I think everyone assumed when they’re better they’d ease up.”
That being said, not all residents are fully onboard.
“I’ve been mixed,” Mary Ceron said. “I feel a little nervous about it because I was getting used to the mask mandate. I appreciated the card (too).”
The Chicago Restaurants Association says the reversal is a good start, but more help is needed to help eateries to get back on their feet after a long slog of a pandemic.
“If federal money does not come, we fear thousands of restaurants (around the country) could close. It can’t happen,” Roger Romanelli of the CRA said. “Owners are on the brink of going out of business. We need action by your senators, the mayor, the governor. Illinois has got to lead the way to save America’s restaurants.”
But others, like Broadway in Chicago, said they will continue vaccination and mask requirements for audiences.
Even as mandates are rolled back, they will remain in place in some locations, including public transportation, congregate living facilities and health care facilities.
Still, residents are hopeful that the rollback of mitigations shows that the city, and the state, are learning to live with COVID-19 as new treatments become available.
“I feel it’s a sign,” Ceron said. “Of hope and moving forward.”