Two Chicago-area counties can now move to Tier 1 mitigations, state health officials announced Thursday, allowing them to reopen indoor dining at restaurants in a limited capacity while another Illinois region will be moving to Phase 4.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, Region 7, home to Will and Kankakee counties, can now enter Tier 1.
The region had been the only one in the Chicago area still under Tier 3 mitigations this week. Most of the Chicago area is now under Tier 2 or Tier 1 mitigations.
In addition to Region 7's progress, IDPH also reports Region 6 can enter Phase 4 beginning Thursday.
“I am excited that 10 out of our 11 regions have moved out of Tier 3 mitigations,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “However, this does not mean we can let our guard down. We must continue to practice actions to protect ourselves from the virus – wear our masks, avoid large gatherings, and get the vaccine when it is our turn. This is particularly critical as new variants circulate, which early studies show spread much more rapidly. We are headed in the right direction once again, so let’s stay the course.”
The health department plans to "closely monitor test positivity, ICU bed availability, and the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19" and if numbers begin trending in the wrong direction, they could see increased mitigations return.
To move from Tier 2 to Tier 1, a region must have an average test positivity rate below 8% for three consecutive days, at least 20% of staffed ICU beds available for three consecutive days and a sustained decrease in the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 for seven out of 10 days, on a 7-day average.
Under Tier 1 mitigations, Region 7 will now be allowed to resume indoor dining, only at establishments serving food, with limited capacity, among several other changes, according to state guidelines.
As Region 6 moves to Phase 4, bars can reopen with capacity restrictions, among other changes.
For a full breakdown of what's allowed in each tier click here.
Though it was not mentioned by the state health department, Chicago officials are also hoping the city could soon reach the return of indoor dining.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday that Tier 1 could be in the near future, with the city potentially meeting the required metrics by the weekend.
"So here in Chicago, our number of COVID cases in the hospital is going down well, our ICU capacity adequate and our positivity had come down. And so really, as of now, still in restaurants and bars, there is no indoor service - that's allowed in the next tier, which we may possibly be able to move toward as early as, you know, possibly over the weekend, early next week, depending where this number goes," Arwady said.
As of Tuesday, Chicago's average positivity rate sat at 8.1%.
"We need to be averaging under 8% consistently, and that's as the state calculates it, so we're still a few days, it could be a week away from this, but if progress continues in the right way, I think it is likely that we may be able to move all the way to the Tier 1 mitigation, which is when we are able to reopen indoor dining with a lot of restrictions on it - 25% capacity, only four people at a table, etc.," Arwady said. "So we're not there yet, but I want you to know that the way the numbers are heading, I am feeling very optimistic that hopefully within just a short period of time here, Chicago will be able to move ahead."
Almost all of Illinois was allowed to loosen certain restrictions this week after state health officials changed the guidelines to move between tiers and phases.
The state's health department announced that due to a change in staffing contracts, which increases hospital staffing across the state, the hospital bed availability metric used in determining a region's tier or phase will now only include ICU beds, not all hospital beds available in the region.
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