As announced last week, Chicago has further relaxed COVID-19 regulations on restaurants and bars, increasing the number of customers allowed in dining rooms. Effective immediately, the city has increased maximum indoor restaurant capacity by 25 to 40 percent, according to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office. This is the second change in two weeks for restaurants, as last week Chicago began allowing a maximum of 50 indoor diners per room – an increase from the previous limit of 25 that had been instituted. when eating indoors returns at the end of January.
The increased capacity is a decision that helps large restaurants, especially those in the city center. Another increase may soon occur. Last week, Chicago Health Department Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said a 50% increase in capacity was coming if metrics indicated that positivity rates and other data points continued to decline.
Mayor Lightfoot and Arwady highlighted a few key metrics: positivity rate, emergency room visits and intensive care bed occupancy. the Sun-Times notes that the city has seen improvements in all three categories: the seven-day rolling average of COVID-19 cases is now 344, the city’s average test positivity rate is 3.6%, and the moving average of emergency department visits has also decreased. However, certain points at the closure of COVID-19 testing sites across the city were the reason for the drop in positivity rates.
Since Chicagoans are used to snow, many downtown restaurants were still busy over the weekend — at least considering COVID-19 restrictions. That’s despite a blizzard that brought 15 inches of snow Monday and sub-zero temperatures.
Meanwhile, workers await the possibility of further vaccination against the coronavirus. Restaurant and bar workers are not considered to be in the same category as grocery store and liquor store workers and will have to wait until March 29 to be eligible. Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia asked the offices of Gov. JB Pritzker and Lightfoot to bring that date forward, but has not heard from either politician.