As Chicago officials announce the shut down of indoor bar service and early closures of non-essential businesses, Mayor Lori Lightfoot reminded young people that the coronavirus can still reach them.
Lightfoot warned young people that they "are not immune" to COVID-19 Thursday as the city sees a major surge in virus cases over the past week.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said that during contact tracing efforts, health officials have found that people ages 18 to 29 and 30 to 39 spend "most of their time" at bars and restaurants in the city.
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"We know bars are significant for the spread, especially among younger Chicagoans," Arwasy said.
On Monday, Arwady warned specifically against inviting people over for home gatherings. She clarified Thursday that most Chicagoans spreading the virus likely contracted it from a bar or restaurant, bringing it into the home.
As of Thursday, indoor dining can remain open through city, but indoor bar service must close as of 6 a.m. Friday. Arwady said bars are more likely to spread the virus because they are considered more a "gathering space."
"People are less likely to be out just with their family (at bars)," Arwady said. "And more likely to have more interactions that perhaps you're not just at a table with your family."
Arwady added that the "loud environment" of a bar likely adds to the likelihood of coronavirus spread as more people have been seen to remove masks and speak close together.
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 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
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% since the beginning of the 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.
"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, 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.