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Chicago relaxes outdoor restrictions

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Illinois public health officials reported 2,250 new COVID-19 cases and 23 deaths Sunday.

Video Transcript

- Covid-19 cases are ticking up in many states, including here in Illinois. Our positivity rate is now at 3.4%, the highest it's been over the last week. Chicago is keeping current indoor dining restrictions in place, including a 50% limit on capacity, but the city just increased capacity for outdoor dining and events where the virus is less likely to spread. Doctor Chris Colbert, from the emergency medicine residency program at UIC, joins us this morning. Thank you so much for being here doctor.

CHRIS COLBERT: Mark, good morning.

- Great to see you again, absolutely. So, OK, we're talking about this positivity rate on the rise. Is it safe to relax restrictions for outdoor dining and other outdoor activities at this point?

CHRIS COLBERT: So Mark, I believe it is safe to open for these restrictions-- for these outdoor dining because again the numbers, and the decisions are made-- are based on looking at the positive numbers as well. Mind you, there's a small spike in these numbers, but the restrictions are made keeping in mind of the space and the instruction that's provided to these businesses as well.

So as long as they adhere to the recommendations, I encourage everyone to continue to enjoy their lives, enjoy the restaurants, enjoy the businesses where they are as long as they abide by the recommendations of where they live-- specifically that in Chicago and the immediate area.

- Right, why do you think it's necessary to keep those restrictions right now in place, for indoor dining as we do see some of those numbers of cases tick up?

CHRIS COLBERT: Well it's the simple fact that the indoor diners are at a closer area than those that are outside, and if you look at the transmissibility of these viruses it's those individuals that are in close proximity. So again as long as we adhere to recommendations and move forward, that what we want to keep those restrictions so we keep everyone safe but could still move forward and keep everything in a positive direction.

- Right, and we need more people to get vaccinated too. That's the thing. Both Illinois and Chicago they're expanding eligibility for vaccines tomorrow. We've been talking about today, Cook County opening up thousands of vaccination appointments today at noon. Do we have enough supply to meet the demand out there?

CHRIS COLBERT: You know Mark, this is all exciting news, and I believe we do. We just have to ensure we have access to everyone and accommodate those populations. Everything is prepared so that we can provide the most vaccinations to those individuals who want them. So again, I encourage everyone to take advantage of these vaccines that are available and to ensure that you can provide them not only for yourself, but also for family members and friends that also may need some assistance.

- Right, we just talked about a family in West Englewood who, all 12 of them got vaccinated, which is so inspiring. So many schools right now, they're on spring break. Let's talk about travel. Is it safe for families to travel? If you're doing a staycation too, what do you think is a safe activity here?

CHRIS COLBERT: So, I always remind everyone that the CDC guidelines have not loosen restrictions for travel, and the reason why is because as we travel we see across the nation there is a spike in the positive numbers. And just to keep everything going in the right direction please be mindful of those recommendations, number one.

Number two, there are so many things to do in Chicago right now. 98% of Chicago is open, so you can go to the zoo, you can go to the Field Museum, you can have-- if the weather's permitting, as we were just communicating, have nice picnics. Just abide by recommendations. No one saying don't go out. But if you do go out, enjoy these areas, abide by the recommendations that we have. Right now the only thing that we don't have available are Bulls tickets, and hopefully it'll get there as well.

- Oh yes absolutely. And even on some of those other things, our cultural centers, it's usually timed entry. They have strict limits as well on who can go in. So, that's great to see. I think the only thing is that I have nightmares about, all the spring breakers in Florida coming back from Miami Beach. Thank you so much Dr. Colbert, really appreciate you on the weekend here. Thank you.

CHRIS COLBERT: It's great to be here. Thank you Mark. everyone have a good day.

- You as well.