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How Long Could Chicago’s Indoor Dining Ban Last? At Least 2-3 Weeks, Pritzker Says

The state won't lift its Tier 1 restrictions until Chicago sees a decline in its number of hospitalizations and its positivity rate — and that could take weeks, Gov. JB Pritzker said.

"Bubbles" installed outside Fiya in Andersonville.
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CHICAGO — It’ll be weeks before Chicago could see a slowdown in its coronavirus surge — which means it’ll be weeks before indoor dining and drinking could be allowed again.

Gov. JB Pritzker said it could take two to three weeks to see what impact — if any — the state’s new limit on gathering sizes and ban on indoor service has on slowing COVID-19. The “enhanced mitigations,” as Pritzker calls them, went into effect Friday for Chicago.

“… I also want to remind everybody that it takes a couple to three weeks to see a set of mitigations start to have an effect on positivity and cases and so on,” Pritzker said during a Monday news conference.

The state won’t lift its Tier 1 restrictions for the region until Chicago sees a decline in its number of hospitalizations and its positivity rate.

That means restaurants and bars could be looking at weeks without indoor service, a challenge for the already-struggling businesses, especially with cold weather having set in. They are allowed to still offer carryout, delivery and patio dining.

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But if the city’s surge continues to worsen and Chicago’s positivity rate and hospitalizations grow even with the mitigation measures, the state could impose stricter rules.

Under Tier 2 of the state’s mitigation rules, “further limits on in-person dining” would be imposed, according to the state. In-person dining would be completed barred under Tier 3 mitigations, with only takeout or delivery allowed.

Should Chicago get to Tier 2, it’ll also face restrictions in other industries. Gyms and fitness centers would have to halt indoor recreational services, some stores wouldn’t be allowed to have in-person shopping and salons and other personal care businesses would be temporarily closed.

“If you have a sustained upward trajectory of positivity in your region, of hospitalizations in the region, of cases in a region, even after a Tier 1 mitigation measures have been put in place, we have to look at Tier 2 and Tier 3,” Pritzker said.

The state and city have been criticized from some who say their policies are hurting the economy and businesses, while others have said they want even stricter rules imposed to keep people safe.

The restrictions are not meant to hurt businesses, Pritzker has repeatedly said. The state is using the measures to target places and events where there’s a higher risk of COVID-19 spreading in hopes of regaining control of the outbreak and preventing something like a statewide shutdown.

“We’re not currently looking at a stay at home order,” Pritzker said Monday. “Obviously, that’s something that lurks in the background if we believe that these tiered mitigations are ultimately ineffective, if people choose not to wear masks and if the spread of the virus continues to go unabated … . We would obviously have to consider more … mitigations.”

State officials, including Pritzker, and experts have said indoor service at bars and restaurants creates the greatest risk for spreading coronavirus, which is why that was restricted under the Tier 1 mitigations.

But Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said most of Chicago’s COVID-19 spread is happening in small gatherings of family and friends in homes.

Officials hope to bring back indoor dining and lift other restrictions as soon as possible, Pritzker said.

“We’re hoping to get back to a point where we can open indoor service as soon as we can get” positivity rates and cases down, Pritzker said.

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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