Chicago is now under Tier 2 Covid restrictions; here’s what that means and what can reopen


Customers enjoy dinner outside at a restaurant in the Loop in Chicago, Illinois, on November 12, 2020. – Chicago’s mayor issued a new stay-at-home advisory on November 12, 2020 effective from November 16 as the United States’ third-biggest city faces a surge in Covid-19 cases. (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI / AFP) (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

CHICAGO — Chicago officials said the City will move to Tier 2 of Illinois’ coronavirus mitigation measures “effective immediately,” after state health officials announced the City met its new metrics for a lessening of restrictions yesterday.

All this talk of “Tiers” and “Phases” can be confusing, so here’s why Chicago is seeing less restrictions, what will be open under Tier 2 and what comes next:

Why Chicago is moving to “Tier 2”

The State of Illinois implemented different levels of coronavirus restrictions (broken into three “Tiers”) as the state was seeing a spike in new COVID-19 infections in late October.

Governor JB Pritzker and health officials kept the whole state under the most strict level, Tier 3, after experts warned of a post-holiday surge. Regions have been allowed to move to less-strict tiers since last Friday.

While many initially qualified for a lessening of restrictions, much of the Chicago area was stuck in “Tier 3” after falling short on one metric: the availability of non-intensive care unit hospital beds.

But on Monday, state health officials announced they would no longer take this under consideration, allowing Chicago, Cook County, as well as west and north suburban counties to move to “Tier 2.”

Here’s what’s different under Tier 2

Open: Indoor group fitness classes, movie theaters, performance venues, museums, as well as indoor recreation and event venues, although capacity is reduced and groups are limited to 10 people. Face coverings must be worn at all times for all of the above.

Still closed: Indoor dining at bars and restaurants

For more details on the City’s exact guidance, see the list below.

When could Chicago move to “Tier 1” or out of “Tiers” once and for all?

Just as we’re coming to understand what “Tier 2” means, Chicago could be moving on to “Tier 1” in a manner of days if current trends continue.

As of Tuesday, the City’s 7-day test positivity rate is at 8%, which is essentially the dividing line for moving down to “Tier 1.” If the City sees a rate *less* than 8% for three consecutive days, with no decrease in ICU availability or increase in Covid hospitalizations, we could move on to Tier 1.

The biggest change under Tier 1 is one many have been eager to see: a reopening of indoor dining at restaurants and bars that serve food. Bars that don’t serve food have to wait until Chicago returns to plain-old “Phase 4.”

If the rate continues to drop and reaches 6.5% or lower for three consecutive days, we can say goodbye to the Tiers completely and return to “Phase 4.” Here’s what the State of Illinois says Phase 4 includes.

*An earlier version of the story incorrectly said “equal to or less than” 8%.

Guidance for Tier 2 from the City of Chicago

Here’s what the City of Chicago says can reopen under the newest guidelines, which are also available online.

Restaurants and Bars

  • Indoor service is still not allowed
  • Spaces which typically host private events can do so for 10 people or less
  • Face coverings must be worn at all times, except while “actively eating and drinking”
  • Must close at 11 p.m. and can reopen no earlier than 6 a.m.

Health and Fitness Centers

  • Group classes of 10 people or less can resume, but a 25% capacity limit remains in place
  • Reservations are no longer required and locker rooms can reopen
  • Face coverings must be worn at all times

Movie Theaters and Performance Venues

  • Movie theaters and venues can reopen at 40% capacity, with no more than 50 peopple
  • Face coverings must be worn at all times (sensing a trend here?)

Retail stores

  • Grocery stores and pharmacies can operate at 50% capacity, all other stores at 40% capacity
  • Face coverings must be worn at all times


  • Can reopen indoors at 25% capacity, guided tours limited to 50 people and groups limited to 10
  • Face coverings must be worn at all times

Personal Services (salons, barbers, etc.)

  • 40% capacity, with no more than 50 people in any one space
  • Face coverings can be removed only for services that require their removal

Indoor recreation

  • Can reopen indoors at 25% capacity, with no more than 25 people in any one space
  • Face coverings must be worn at all times

Places of worship

  • 40% capacity, with no more than 50 people in any one space
  • Special events capped at no more than 10 people
  • Face coverings must be worn at all times

Event venues

  • Indoor and outdoor events can resume, with no more than 10 people
  • Face coverings must be worn at all times except when actively eating and drinking


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