Chicago officially moved into Phase 4 of Illinois’ coronavirus mitigation plan, but things won't be quite the same as other regions under this phase of state's reopening guidelines.
Under normal circumstances, the move to Phase 4 would bump up capacity limits in indoor dining establishments, but city officials say that restaurants and bars will be required to adhere to Tier 1 limits on those numbers. That means indoor service will be limited to 25% or 25 or fewer persons per room, with no tables exceeding six customers indoors.
Bar service is allowed to resume at restaurants and bars, however, according to a press release from the city.
In a news release, city officials stated that while numbers continue to decline, they claim a "hurried return to greater indoor capacity would bring serious risk" of reducing the progress that has been made.
"We have just resumed safe indoor dining, and while we are excited to make that move we must continue to be thoughtful and cautious in our reopening," Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said a statement. "The last thing we want is to cause a third wave of the virus by rushing to fully reopen riskier settings where masks are removed and people gather in close proximity.”
Additionally, health officials stated it is "standard public health practice" to monitor the impact of any significant mitigation change for a minimum of two weeks, noting Chicago returned to indoor dining less than a week earlier.
When Chicago shifts to Phase 4, the following regulations will be in place:
- Indoor dining and indoor events will remain limited to the lesser of 25% capacity or 25 people per space
- Most other industries will be limited to the lesser of 40% capacity or 50 people
- Bar seating will be allowed and indoor table size can increase to six people
- Non-essential business curfew will be repealed
- Bars and restaurants will be able to extend operating hours to midnight, with no alcohol service after 11 p.m.
“We continue to see great progress in the ongoing fight against COVID-19, and I am thrilled that our metrics continue to move in the right direction," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. “However, while we welcomed the return of limited indoor service last weekend, a rush to expand capacity too quickly would be irresponsible. With cases and positivity rates still higher than before the second surge, now is the time to keep safeguards in place to ensure continued progress and hopefully prevent any rollbacks in the future."
As of Sunday, the city had dropped its positivity rate below 6.5% for at least consecutive days. That rate has remained steady at 6.4% in recent days, according to IDPH data. The city’s ICU bed availability has also remained steadily above 20% for 11 consecutive days, while hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have decreased each of the last 10 days.
For other regions under Phase 4 guidelines as determined by IDPH, indoor bar service may resume without restrictions requiring food service and indoor dining is allowed for parties up to 10 people. Also, standing areas are permitted at no more than 25% of capacity.
“As one of the most highly regulated industries in terms of health and safety — and with enhanced precautions introduced during COVID-19 — Chicago restaurant operators know how to protect the wellbeing of their guests and team members. They are confident they can safely serve more guests in Phase 4," Sam Toia, president & CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said in a statement. "The industry needs more to survive this crisis.”