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CHICAGO — Following weeks of improving metrics, the City of Chicago will see a lessening of coronavirus restrictions after it met Illinois’ requirements for returning to “Phase 4” of its reopening plan Sunday, although stricter capacity limits on indoor dining will remain.

Chicago met the state’s standards  to go back to “Phase 4” mitigations similar to those in place over the summer after the city’s 7-day COVID-19 test positivity rate dropped below 6.5% for three straight days. 

Anywhere you go you’ll still need a mask and generally be required to stay six feet apart,  but under Phase Four you’ll be able to go out to dinner and a movie. However, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said stricter capacity limits will remain in place for bars and restaurants for now.

While theaters can return to 50% capacity bars and restaurants will remain restricted to just 25% capacity. The new rules also mean there’s no more curfew in the city for non-essential workers.  

Lightfoot explained the change in a statement, saying:  

“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.” 

Indoor recreation areas can reopen to operate at lesser of 50 customers or 50% of facility capacity, with those same provisions applying to meetings and social events as well. Museums can open to 25 percent capacity with guided tours limited to 50 or fewer people per group.

Retail shops like department stores, personal care shops like salons and indoor recreation facilities like bowling alleys can all be open at 40% capacity (or serve fewer than 50 people at once), whichever number is smaller. 

Phase 4 guidelines include allowance of parties up to 10 people for indoor dining and drinking, with seated areas remaining six feet apart indoors. Alcohol can’t be served after 11  and indoor table service must stop at midnight.   

Fulton Market Association Executive Director Roger Romanelli called the changes incremental progress.  

“Restaurants can have six people at a table, which was very important for families, very important; restaurant patrons can be sitting at bars, and the two hour time limit is no longer required at restaurants,” Romanelli said.

Unlike other industries, restaurants were shut down for indoor service for 180 days, which Romanelli says means the government must provide relief. He wants officials to release tens of millions of dollars in Tax Increment Financing money to help the restaurants make it through the pandemic.   

“The restaurants want to work to get beyond 25% because right now they really cannot make ends meet,” Romanelli said. “Those funds need to be released now  for small business and restaurant survival grants.”

Phase Four initially was in effect for much of the state from late June through the fall, but the so-called second wave of the virus forced rollbacks. There is hope that rollbacks can be avoided now with the  vaccine rolling out to more and more people.

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