Illinois governor orders limits on Chicago: no indoor bar or dining service, crowds capped at 25

Dan Petrella, Jamie Munks and Gregory Pratt, Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday ordered new restrictions for the city of Chicago that will prohibit indoor dining and bar service and limit gatherings to 25 as of Friday.

The city has seen sustained increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations and its COVID-19 test positivity rate, a combination of factors that triggers a rollback of reopening under the governor’s plan.

The city is “averaging more than twice as many COVID-related hospital admissions per day as it was a month ago, with a positivity rate that has almost doubled since the beginning of October,” Pritzker said in a statement Tuesday, issued in advance of his daily coronavirus briefing.

The city will become the seventh of 11 regions in the state to come under stricter rules imposed by the state.

The rollback in Chicago follows Pritzker’s announcement Monday of the same tighter restrictions in suburban Cook County, which kick in Wednesday.

The city of Chicago, which is its own region in Pritzker’s reopening plan, had a 7.8% test positivity rate as of Oct. 24, the most recent data the Illinois Department of Public Health has released. The city’s positivity rate is up from 6.7% a week earlier.

The state was reporting 43 new hospital admissions for COVID-19 like illnesses in Chicago on Oct. 24, up from 30 on Oct. 17.

Under Pritzker’s plan, if a region sees a sustained increase in its seven-day rolling positivity rate and either a sustained seven-day increase in hospital admissions for COVID-19 like illness or a reduction in hospital capacity that threatens “surge capabilities,” stricter rules such as the closure of indoor dining and bar service and a lowered gathering cap are imposed by the state.

Last week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot reinstated a ban on indoor service at traditional taverns and brewery taprooms without food licenses, and asked residents to cap any social gatherings at six people.

She also warned the city is on a path for much tougher restrictions heading into the holiday season if the virus doesn’t get under control.

Late last month, Lightfoot cited a decrease in COVID-19 cases as she allowed bars that don’t serve food to reopen for indoor drinking. She also eased rules on restaurants, gyms and other retailers, allowing them to increase capacity.

The changes were Lightfoot’s latest attempt to ease the financial burden on Chicago businesses by lifting frequently criticized restrictions.

But they also came as the number of new COVID-19 cases per day was hovering around 300, well above the 200-case threshold the mayor set months ago as a goal before moderating restrictions.

Chicago now is averaging nearly 800 new cases a day, public health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. To put it into perspective, she said 400 was a level of concern and 200 was the level the city wanted to stay under.

“It’s heading the wrong way,” Arwady said on Tuesday.

Other regions could be heading toward tougher restrictions as well. Lake and McHenry counties recorded a rolling coronavirus positivity rate above 8% for the second straight day, state health officials reported Tuesday, putting the north and northwest suburban counties one day away from triggering stricter rules that would shut down indoor restaurant and bar service.

Unless the rate drops below 8% when data is reported Wednesday, the latest figures, which show the seven-day average for the share of coronavirus tests returning positive results as of Saturday, put the counties in line to join the rest of suburban Chicago and three other regions under the stricter rules, which also include a cap on gatherings.

The two counties had a combined test positivity rate of 8.4% as of Saturday, up from 8.1% a day earlier.

On Wednesday, suburban Cook County will join DuPage, Kane, Will and Kankakee counties under the stricter rules as part of Pritzker’s plan aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Outside the Chicago area, northwestern Illinois, southern Illinois and the Metro East region near St. Louis are either under restrictions or will be starting Wednesday.

State health officials on Tuesday also reported 4,000 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 382,985 since the start of the pandemic. The rolling positivity rate was 6.4% statewide as of Monday.

There also were 46 additional fatalities reported Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 9,568 statewide.


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