Skip to contents

Is It Safe To Go Out? Chicago’s Top Doctor Has A Chart That Can Help You Figure It Out

People should still be "thoughtful" about the coronavirus and take precautions even if they head out, said Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Customers cover their mouths to order at the Red Barrel restaurant near Midway Airport.
Chicago Mayor's Office
  • Credibility:

CHICAGO — More and more businesses are reopening, allowing Chicagoans to go out to eat, shop and more.

And when Chicago moves into Phase 4 of reopening amidst the coronavirus pandemic Friday, even more places can reopen, including museums and zoos, gyms and performance venues.

But many people are wondering: Is it actually safe to go out?

Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said the city developed a chart to help people figure out when it’s safe to go out during the pandemic.

Arwady previewed the chart during a Tuesday livestream on Facebook and said the city will release more information about it soon.

And though the chart does say people can go out, officials are still urging people to take precautions by wearing face coverings, staying 6 feet apart from others and washing their hands frequently.

People should also think about how to limit the risk of COVID-19 — for themselves and for the people they’re around — when they’re “out and about,” Arwady said.

Here’s the chart:

Chicagoans can use the chart by following two steps.

In step one, people should think about themselves and people they’re in close contact with and ask themselves two questions:

  • Is everyone under age 60?
  • Is everyone healthy and without underlying medical conditions?

Then, people should go to step two, which asks questions about the public activity:

  • Can you avoid crowds or close interaction with people you do not know?
  • Can you always keep 6-foot distance from others?
  • Can you always wear a mask? (And can everyone else?)
  • Is the activity outdoors?

Ideally, for safety, the answers to all questions should be “yes” if someone is considering going out.

But people can compare their answers against the chart to determine what they should do: go out but take precautions, consider avoiding non-essential activities or definitely avoid non-essential activities.

“The idea of this matrix is if you can answer ‘yes’ to all of these questions … I want you practicing all of the normal COVID precautions, but you can sort of move ahead,” Arwady said.

People who are answering “no” to most or all of the questions should avoid the public activity they were considering to protect themselves or others around them, Arwady said.

People should also remember going out doesn’t just affect them — it could also put people they come into contact with at risk, like household members who are elderly or have underlying health conditions.

“Be thoughtful about COVID. If you’ve got someone who’s really high risk, y’know, fewer risks with that person is sort of the way it works. And you’re carrying those people on your back …,” Arwady said.

The doctor also told people they do not have to do anything they’re not comfortable with yet, including having people over for visits.

“There is no such thing as a risk-free interaction …,” Arwady said.

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

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Already subscribe? Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.