Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city is in the midst of a second coronavirus surge as cases continue to rise at "concerning" levels, sparking warnings that some restrictions could soon return.
"This is the second surge that Dr. Fauci and Dr. Arwady have been warning about since March," Lightfoot said. "And we are now in it."
She said while the surge is not surprising, she attributed it largely to the fact that "COVID thrives in enclosed spaces."
"We've been talking about these kinds of risks now from the very beginning," she said.
Currently, Chicago is reporting an average of more than 500 new coronavirus cases daily, the "highest daily rate since the tail end of the first surge at the end of May," officials said.
As of Monday, Chicago was seeing a 7-day rolling average of 508 new cases per day, according to the city's coronavirus data dashboard. That marks a significant increase from the roughly 300 new cases per day rolling average the city was seeing just three weeks earlier when restrictions were eased.
Lightfoot warned that if the numbers continue rising, the city could see returns to phase three restrictions.
"We will not hesitate to take the steps to save our city and save our residents," she said.
Lightfoot and Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady last month announced that the city would ease some of the restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus, 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 can now open indoor seating - shut down since late July - at 25% capacity up to 50 people, officials said.
Bars and restaurants can also serve alcohol until 1 a.m. and stay open through 1:30 a.m., fitness classes can include up to 15 people and personal or salon services like facials that require removal of masks will again be allowed.
The city has been in phase four of its reopening plan since June 26, when some of the earlier restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus were gradually lifted.
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.
Monday's update comes just days after Arwady said in a news conference on Thursday that it was "not a good week for COVID" in Chicago.
Arwady said while she knows people are tired of COVID-19, residents need to continue to employ mitigation strategies like wearing masks in public, practicing social distancing and washing hands regularly.
"Right now we need people more than ever to do things that we know work," she said.
"It's very natural to let your guard down among people who you love and who you feel comfortable with," Arwady continued. "But COVID is just looking for any opportunity to spread."
Then on Friday, Arwady appeared alongside Chicago Public Schools officials to announce the district's plan to keep all students on remote learning to begin the second quarter, but with the goal of bringing some students - pre-k and intensive and moderate cluster programs - back into the classrooms in a phased reopening beginning in January.
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