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Chicago Is Moving To Phase 3 Of Reopening Amid Coronavirus, Despite Protests, Vandalism

The news came as a surprise. On Monday, Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, warned it might not be possible due to the mass gatherings seen over the weekend.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot answers questions at a press conference on the updates about COVID-19 in Illinois on Friday, March 20, 2020 in Chicago.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — The city will move to Phase 3 as planned Wednesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Tuesday.

Restaurants and coffee shops will partially reopen. Non-essential retail stores, salons, barber shops, offices, child care, outdoor facilities like golf courses and more will reopen, as well, the mayor said. Social gatherings will be limited to 10 people or fewer.

The city will help businesses find resources for personal protective equipment, and it’s partnering with business development centers to help small business owners get information on financial relief options and connecting with volunteers, Lightfoot said. The city is also pressuring insurance companies to start paying out funds to businesses as soon as possible.

The open streets program, announced just last week, will also move forward, Lightfoot said.

RELATED: These Chicago Streets Will Close To Traffic, Open For Outdoor Dining Next Month, Mayor Says

City services will stay closed for the time being, though Lightfoot previously said they are scheduled to return Monday.

Lightfoot said residents can expect summer programs, youth activities, religious services, gyms and the lakefront and beaches to reopen in Phase 3 as well, but not Wednesday.

This announcement came as a surprise following a weekend full of protests, looting, violence and vandalism across the city. But Lightfoot said consulting with business owners who suffered losses from coronavirus followed by looting helped her decide to move forward anyway.

“I want to tell the city now, after a lot of consultation and, yes, a lot of prayer, we will reopen tomorrow and take this important next step as planned,” Lightfoot said. “That means numerous businesses and public spaces will be reopening to the public with limited capacity.”

RELATED: This Is What The City Wants Bars, Restaurants, Salons And Stores To Do Before They Can Reopen

The city will help assist and secure the reopening process, particularly for businesses impacted by looting, the mayor said.

The mayor asked employers to keep people at home if they can work from there, saying that’s the “safer option.”

Many had expected the city to push back its plans to reopen. On Monday, Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, warned it might not be possible due to the mass gatherings seen over the weekend.

“I am concerned that this weekend — not just related to the protests, but related to a lot of people gathering in Chicago for a lot of reasons — we may see ourselves take a step backwards down the line against COVID here in Chicago,” she said. “And that’s because COVID-19 is caused by a virus, and that virus does not care what else is going on in the city.”

But the city has met all its health goals for progressing to Phase 3, officials said: The number of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 are on the decline, and the percent of people testing positive for coronavirus has fallen to below 15 percent.

Still, Arwady warned Tuesday there is a heightened risk of COVID-19 for people who did attend protests or other types of gatherings in recent days. Those people should self-isolate for 14 days, she said, and at minimum they should stick away from elderly people or people with underlying conditions, who are the most vulnerable to coronavirus.

“Risk is not gone here, and it will not,” Arwady said. “We need you, please, not to forget about COVID and to limit the opportunities that it has to spread.”

Arwady urged people to continue doing things to fight the spread of coronavirus: People should wear face coverings, stay 6 feet apart from each other, wash their hands and stay home if even mildly ill.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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