DOWNTOWN — Chicago and Illinois completely reopened Friday — 447 days after the stay at home order went into effect, changing life and making the pandemic a reality for many.
The state has moved into Phase 5 of reopening, lifting all capacity restrictions and allowing all businesses to reopen and events to fully return. Masks are still required in some instances — and are recommended in public for people who aren’t fully vaccinated — but fully vaccinated people are no longer required to wear them in many public settings.
“I invite all Illinoisans to feel the hope and joy of this moment while also recognizing that this pandemic is still very present for the world at large — not to mention those here at home who have not been or cannot be vaccinated,” Gov. JB Pritzker said in a Thursday news release. “As we take this next step forward, let’s do so with a renewed commitment to empathy, to community, and to making each day together count. You did it, Illinois.”
COVID-19 has killed more than 23,000 Illinoisans, including more than 5,400 Chicagoans. There have been more than 1.3 million confirmed cases statewide and more than 285,000 in the city.
The virus continues to sicken and kill people locally and worldwide, and officials have urged everyone to get vaccinated and to continue taking safety precautions like wearing masks and staying socially distant when appropriate.
But Friday’s shift — after months of officials gradually easing up on restrictions — marks a major milestone.
For the first time in more than a year, Cubs and Sox games can be played with full stadiums. People can host large weddings. Festivals are making a comeback. Museums have reopened, with some of the most popular ones staying open late Friday in celebration.
Businesses are still allowed to have their own coronavirus safety rules, like asking guests to wear masks or show proof of vaccination. But those rules are no longer required under the state.
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Chicago is now the largest city to be fully reopened in the United States, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a Friday news conference.
“Our city is back,” Lightfoot said. “We are poised to roar back, to provide more business, more opportunity and, importantly, more jobs to Chicagoans.”
Lightfoot said Chicagoans endured “incredible hardship” during the past 15 months, but they showed, “We are strong. We are resilient. And we are back.”
Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said Chicago will continue to make progress so long as more people get vaccinated.
Officials are encouraging people to support local businesses — and offering Chicagoans rewards, like Lollapalooza passes, if they get vaccinated, as less than half of the city’s residents have gotten all their shots.
“You masked up. You got vaxxed up. And now, it’s time for you to get up, get out of the house this summer and fully and safely enjoy the events of the best city on the planet, our beloved city of Chicago,” Lightfoot said.
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Here’s what changes Friday:
- Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask except in places where the federal government requires it — like nursing homes, public transportation and health care facilities — or where a business or workplace requires it.
- Masks are required inside schools, but the state will not require them when people are outdoors at school.
- People who are not fully vaccinated should continue to wear a mask in crowded settings indoors and outdoors, the state recommends. The state’s health department particularly recommends unvaccinated people wear masks when around youth, who are not yet eligible for the vaccines.
- People who are immunocompromised should consider wearing masks when in settings where other people might not be fully vaccinated, according to the state.
- At businesses:
- The state won’t require social distancing or mask-wearing outdoors or indoors at businesses where everyone is fully vaccinated.
- For indoor businesses where not everyone is fully vaccinated, unvaccinated people should continue to wear a face covering and stay 6 feet apart, according to the state. If at outdoor businesses, unvaccinated people can choose not to wear a face covering when they’re able to keep 6 feet from other people.
- Businesses and workplaces can still require masks on their premises if they choose. Businesses should support customers and employees who choose to keep wearing a mask, according to the state.
- All businesses can reopen.
- Large events, like festivals and conventions, can return without capacity restrictions.
- Large gatherings can resume, including weddings, church services and parties with large crowds.
- Businesses can continue to implement their own mitigation strategies — including requiring social distancing and masks — if they choose. The state recommends businesses “allow for social distancing to the extent possible, especially indoors.”
The change comes as vaccines have become widely available and, as a result, COVID-19 cases have fallen.
In Illinois, about 5.6 million people of all ages — or 44.57 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — have gotten all their COVID-19 vaccination shots, according to state data.
City data shows more than 1.2 million Chicagoans — or 45.6 percent of all residents — have gotten fully vaccinated. About 53.1 percent of all Chicagoans have gotten at least one shot. Among Chicagoans 65 and older, 70.2 percent have gotten at least one dose, while 63.9 percent have finished their vaccination.
The vaccinations are free and do not require insurance. Anyone can call the city’s coronavirus hotline at 312-746-4835 to get more information on how and where to get vaccinated in their community.
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