CHICAGO — A group of alderpeople are pressuring the city’s top doctor to lift the indoor mask mandate and vaccination requirement for restaurants and other indoor spaces by the end of the week, so businesses and residents can celebrate the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day.
Eleven alderpeople signed a letter to the mayor pushing for a quicker end to Chicago’s restrictions. The letter was posted to Twitter by Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) hours after Gov. JB Pritzker announced the state would lift the statewide mask mandate Feb 28th, as long as it continues to see declines in COVID-19 metrics.
Chicago officials announced they’ll also lift the city’s mask and vaccine card requirements at the end of February if local metrics decline.
But citing the city’s falling COVID-19 positivity rate, the alderpeople want the requirements relaxed even sooner.
In their letter, they said “the measures instituted have helped prevent the COVID-19 variants from overtaking our city. However, the science tells us it is time to loosen the regulations that crippled both virus and businesses alike.” Chicago’s positivity rate was at 2.9 percent, down from 4.4 percent a week ago.
Saying “restaurants and bars have been crushed by the mask and vaccine mandates,” the letter asks for the restrictions to be lifted by Friday if Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, finds it “appropriate.”
In addition to Lopez, the letter was signed by Alds. Anthony Beale (9th); Marty Quinn (13th); Ed Burke (14th); Derrick Curtis (18th); Matt O’Shea (19th); Silvana Tabares (23rd); Nicholas Sposato (38th); Samantha Nugent (39th); Anthony Napolitano (41st) and Jim Gardiner (45th).
“If rescinded, Chicagoans and our visitors can enjoy both the upcoming Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day festivities mandate-free, granting them the ability to decided how best to protect themselves,” the letter says.
The Mayor’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter, but a spokesperson for health department said the city can’t repeal its mask mandate before the statewide mandate is lifted.
“We are required to follow state of Illinois guidance on COVID mitigations and cannot be less restrictive than the state,” spokesperson Andrew Buchanan said.
The public health department issued a statement Wednesday saying the city “would begin to lift restrictions” when three of four key metrics reach “lower transmission risk” levels and then stay there for a period of two weeks.
Just one metric, the COVID-19 test positivity rate, is in the “lower transmission” category. COVID-19 cases diagnosed per day is in the “high transmission” category, while the number of total hospital beds and ICU beds occupied by COVID patients are both in the “substantial transmission” category, although all four metrics have been declining in recent weeks.
When the city does lift restrictions, “many Chicagoans may continue to wear masks in public spaces for a variety of reasons, even if they are vaccinated or as mandates and advisories fade.”
“Please be kind and conscientious of your fellow Chicagoans and the decisions they make to protect themselves,” including to those who are immunocompromised or live with a family member who is immunocompromised, the statement says.
The moves go against recommendations from Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Walensky this week urged officials to keep masking requirements in place for schools and other public places, saying “now is not the moment” to stop, according to Reuters.
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