coronavirus illinois

Lightfoot Pushes to Reopen Chicago Restaurants and Bars ‘as Quickly as Possible'

Lightfoot said she feels officials should be "very close" to a point of discussing restaurant and bar reopenings

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot said on Thursday that she wants to reopen Chicago restaurants and bars "as quickly as possible," which she said will be a conversation with the governor.

"I am very, very focused on getting our restaurants reopen, if we look at the various criteria, that the state is set, we are meeting most, if not all of those," Lightfoot said. "So that's a conversation that I will have with the governor, but I want to get our restaurants and our bars reopen as quickly as possible."

The mayor added that Chicago restaurants have gone "above and beyond" to put coronavirus mitigations in place, which she said are highly regulated and checked on a regular basis. Lightfoot said restaurants and bars are going to be "one of the safer places."

According to Lightfoot, after restaurants and bars closed, the city's health officials saw more people moving into private spaces with no masks and causing more risk of spreading the coronavirus.

"In the bar space, we have much more of an opportunity, in my view, to be able to regulate and control that environment," Lightfoot said. "People are engaging in risky behavior that is not only putting themselves at risk, but putting their families, their co-workers and other ones at risk."

She added that she feels "very strongly" that Chicago is "very close" to a point where officials should be discussing reopening bars and restaurants to the public.

Some Illinois regions could begin lifting Tier 3 restrictions as early as this week if they've met the right metrics, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker. However, it is unclear what mitigations specifically would be lifted.

The governor did not give a specific day in which a decision on lifting mitigations would be announced, but he said last week that the earliest regions could leave Tier 3 would be Friday.

"Since Nov. 30, I have maintained – at the advice of Dr. [Anthony] Fauci, the [Illinois Department of Public Health] and other infectious disease experts – that it would be unwise to downgrade any region from our current Tier Three mitigations while in the holiday season, when people were particularly prone to gather in multi-family groups and do it without masks – the things that could deliver the worrisome 'surge upon a surge,'" Pritzker said during an update on the state's coronavirus response Wednesday.

He noted that the state "did not experience the post-Thanksgiving uptick that plagued much of the country" and said state health officials were "watching closely" the period after Christmas and New Year's.

"I’m cautiously optimistic as there are some early signs indicating that some regions have made real progress and won’t reverse that progress this week or next," Pritzker continued.

"So on Jan. 15, exactly one incubation period from New Year’s Day, any region that has met the metrics for a reduction of mitigations will be able to move out of Tier Three of our mitigation plan," he said.

All of Illinois' 11 regions have been under Tier 3 mitigations since Nov. 20, which have lowered capacity limitations for outdoor dining and other activities, suspended indoor dining entirely, shut down indoor recreation venues like theaters and casinos and increased other restrictions.

A region can move to Tier 2 mitigations if it sees a test positivity rate less than 12% for three consecutive days and more than 20% of ICU and hospital beds are available, as well as declining COVID-19 hospitalizations in seven of the previous 10 days.

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