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State Loosening Coronavirus Restrictions In Chicago, Allowing Museums To Reopen And Sports To Return

As restrictions are lifted, people should continue to take safety measures like wearing a mask and social distancing, officials said.

Patrons wear masks and practice social distancing at The Art Institute of Chicago amid the COVID-19 pandemic on September 12, 2020.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Chicago is moving to Tier 2 of the state’s coronavirus safety mitigations plan, the state announced Monday afternoon.

That means cultural institutions, like museums, can reopen; gatherings can resume with up to 10 people; indoor fitness classes can restart with up to 10 people; and recreational sports can return, though with restrictions.

All regions of the state, including Region 11, which covers Chicago, had been under Tier 3, which has the toughest restrictions, since Nov. 20. Gov. JB Pritzker allowed regions to start moving down the tier system Friday, allowing rules to be lifted and more places to reopen.

Region 11 has not technically met the state’s criteria for moving down to Tier 2, as it hasn’t met hospital capacity requirements.

But the Illinois Department of Public Health announced Monday it’ll allow the area and other regions to move to Tier 2 even if they haven’t met the hospital capacity goal because the state is bringing in more health care workers who can work at hospitals, effectively increasing the number of sick people they can handle.

“Hospital leaders have made clear the importance of staffing in their continued response to this pandemic and conveyed that staffing contracts will be extraordinarily valuable in their ability to meet the needs of their communities,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said in a statement. “We are pleased to see most of our regions move out of Tier 3 mitigations with this change, and it is critical that we maintain this progress. With new variants of COVID-19 spreading, it is more important than ever to follow the public health guidance that keeps people safe — wear your mask and watch your distance.”

Pritzker has said the tier system allowed Illinois to slow down the fall wave of COVID-19 that saw hundreds of people dying per week.

But critics have said the restrictions hurt businesses, as they have to close or serve fewer customers.

As restrictions are lifted, people should continue to take safety measures like wearing a mask and social distancing, officials said.

The state’s health department warned those safety precautions are especially important now that a more contagious variant of the virus has been found in Chicago.

“Clearly, some progress has been made to combat this virus across our regions,” Pritzker said. “But I want to stress that it’s incredibly important for Illinoisans to not let their guard down.”

Regions’ metrics can be tracked online.

How Regions Can Move Down

To move from Tier 3 to Tier 2 mitigations, a region must meet these criteria:

  • A test positivity rate below 12 percent for three consecutive days, as measured by the seven-day rolling average.
  • Greater than or equal to 20 percent available staffed ICU and medical/surgical hospital beds for three consecutive days, on a three-day rolling average.  
  • A sustained decrease in the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 for seven out of 10 days, on a seven-day average. 

To move from Tier 2 to Tier 1 mitigations, a region must meet these criteria:

  • A test positivity rate below 8 percent for three consecutive days, as measured by the seven-day rolling average.
  • Greater than or equal to 20 percent available staffed ICU and medical/surgical hospital beds for three consecutive days, on a three-day rolling average.  
  • No sustained increase in the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 for seven out of 10 days, on a seven-day average.

To move from Tier 1 to Phase 4, a region must meet these criteria:

  • A test positivity rate less than or equal to 6.5 percent for three consecutive days, as measured by the seven-day rolling average.
  • Greater than or equal to 20 percent available staffed ICU and medical/surgical hospital beds for three consecutive days, on a three-day rolling average.  
  • No sustained increase in the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 for seven out of 10 days, on a seven-day average.

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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