Among the new restrictions taking effect in Chicago is a curfew on social gatherings as city officials urged people to limit the size of their "bubble" as a second surge of the coronavirus begins.
Beyond the suspension of indoor bar service and a curfew for local businesses, the new guidelines released by the city also asks all Chicagoans to "avoid social gatherings of more than six people and end all social gatherings by 10 p.m."
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the new restrictions during a Thursday briefing. The restrictions will also force non-essential businesses to close their doors by 10 p.m.
The city has also recommended a maximum of six people "in your personal bubble" and that residents do not hold any household gatherings with more than six people who are "non-household members."
"These new restrictions and guidelines will be in effect for at least two weeks and are targeted to help Chicago manage an alarming recent rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations," the mayor's office said in a release.
The newest restrictions, which take effect at 6 a.m. Friday, 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, the city will once again close indoor dining as well. Currently, the seven-day positivity rate is at 6.4%, marking a rise that health experts say can't be explained by an increase in testing.
Currently, Chicago is reporting an average of more than 600 new coronavirus cases daily, the "highest daily rate since the tail end of the first surge at the end of May," officials said. On Thursday, Lightfoot said the average daily case rate had increased by more than 50% in the last week.
As of Monday, Chicago was seeing a seven-day rolling average of 508 new cases per day, according to the city's coronavirus data dashboard. The increase marks a significant jump from the roughly 300 new cases per day rolling average the city was seeing just three weeks earlier when restrictions were eased.
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.
"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.
In a press conference to "sound the alarm" this week, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the city won't wait until the state-mandated 8% positivity threshold to increase restrictions.
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.