Chicago Ready to Move to Phase 4 on Friday, Mayor Says

Chicago was initially not set to move to phase four until July 1

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Chicago will be ready to enter phase four with the rest of Illinois on Friday, several days earlier than health experts had initially planned, the mayor announced.

The transition means additional businesses and public amenities will be allowed to reopen with limited capacity and certain restrictions and gatherings can increase to up to 50 people inside and 100 people outside.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot discusses the city's decision to move into Phase Four of the coronavirus reopening plan.

“The service and sacrifice made by Chicagoans from every corner of our city and every walk of life has allowed us to safely reach the point where we are now,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. “It includes the incredible work done by our healthcare professionals, first responders, and essential workers who have cared for our residents and kept our city running. Everything we’ve done to meet this moment has been the direct result of the hard work and sacrifice of our residents, which has not only saved the lives of thousands of Chicagoans over these past three months, but also helped lay the groundwork for the transformative recovery that will follow.”

Here's a look at what will open for the first time at the beginning of phase four in Chicago:

  • Indoor seating in bars and restaurants
  • Museums and zoos
  • Performance venues
  • Summer camps / youth activities

Phase four will also include adjustments to other industries that have previously reopened. Residents will still be urged to social distance and wear face coverings.

If progress continues to be made, and the city reaches fewer than 100 new cases per day, capacity restrictions will be loosened further during phase four, health officials said.

Chicago is currently in its third phase of reopening, though health experts had previously said the city would likely enter phase four by July 1, sooner if metrics were met. All four of Illinois' health regions currently remain on track to also enter phase four Friday.

Earlier this month, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady announced adjustments in the metrics needed to consider moving to phase four, all of which the city is currently meeting.

Among those metrics are:

  • a percent positivity rate of less than 7%
  • adequate hospital capacity
  • at least 4,500 tests per day, maintained, or increase to 6,500 tests per day
  • contact tracing investigations of 90% of cases within 24 hours of positive results
  • Stable or declining emergency department visits for influenza-like illness or COVID-like illness over 21 days
  • Stable or declining rates of cases resulting in hospital admissions and deaths over 28 days
  • Declining rate of new cases over 28 days and/or less than 200 new cases per day over 14 days

But health officials have consistently cautioned about the potential for a spike, similar to other states in the U.S., as things reopen.

“The data continue to show that we’re making progress and we’ll be ready to move into phase four later this week,” Arwady said in a statement. “However, we still have a lot of COVID-19 cases here in Chicago; we’re just now moving from a high-risk to a medium-high-risk city for COVID-19 spread, based on our numbers, and we need to move ahead cautiously. I can’t emphasize enough the need for people and businesses to continue to abide by the public health guidance so we can avoid the spike in cases we’re seeing in other cities and states that re-opened before us.”

Lightfoot echoed that comment Thursday, saying officials are "watching with great concern other states, other jurisdictions that opened up without cautiously doing so." She noted some are seeing "the highest infections at any point in the arc of this virus."

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady urged residents to remain cautious and heed safety guidelines as the city prepares to enter phase four sooner than expected.

"We will not allow that to be the narrative of Chicago but that really depends on each of you being smart, being careful, wearing masks when you're out in public, making sure that you're adhering to social distancing and continuing to doing the hygiene requirements that make a difference," Lightfoot said.

The city has implemented a system to determine if the reopening should stall or possibly even move backwards. As long as metrics continue to be met, or stay "green," cautious reopening plans can advance. If some metrics are not being met, or become "yellow," the city will "pause and monitor."

But if the city's progress turns "red," plans will stop and some restrictions may be reinstated.

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