Fifteen months after Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued the first stay-at-home order, Chicago will join the rest of Illinois in ending all remaining COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, moving to Phase 5 of the "Restore Illinois" plan, on June 11, 2021.
"A lot of the things that people and businesses and everybody has gotten used to at this point will no longer be in place," said Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Department of Public Health, at a Friday news conference. "There will no longer be capacity limits. You'll be able to go to a restaurant. You'll be able to go to a baseball game. You'll be able to gather in church. You'll be able to attend events and have weddings without those capacity limitations that we've had in place for more than a year."
The city's mask requirement has already gone away, though it remains in effect on mass transit, health care settings, vulnerable congregant settings and schools. Businesses and other places of public accommodation can still set their own rules. But Arwady said the masking recommendation in settings wherein people are not checking vaccination status will likely end.
While Mayor Lori Lightfoot had originally forecast the Fourth of July as Chicago's reopening date, Arwady said that data points are doing better than had been expected at this point. New cases, positivity, hospitalizations and deaths are in the "lower risk" category.
"We're at a point now where we're not concerned about the health system being threatened. A vaccine is widely available, and we're going to be working very hard to get more and more people vaccinated," she said.
"This is the time to open, when you're on a significant decline like this. I can't predict fully what we'll see in the fall or in the winter, although we know that if we see another surge of COVID, it will show up in communities that are less vaccinated, which is why we care about these sorts of efforts."
Arwady said unvaccinated people, such as children, will need to be more cautious this summer, but that she hopes vaccines will be available for children younger than 12 in September.
Yellow-clad volunteer canvassing teams, trained by the city online via firstname.lastname@example.org or at pages.ccc.edu/apply/mxvaccine, will be going door to door in the 13 lowest-vaccinated community areas, including South Shore, to encourage residents to get vaccinated, with help on getting appointments or vaccinated at home, if need be.
The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership — the lead coordinating organization of the Chicago COVID-19 Contact-Tracing Corps, with more than 600 contact tracers — has since transitioned to vaccination efforts and will also be canvassing.
"As we learn from what goes well here and as we collect data, we'll be ramping up," Arwady said. "Even beyond these communities, we are planning to have similar outreach teams. Probably not in a door-to-door way, but bringing vaccine information to other pockets in the city that may be less vaccinated. This is really going to be a process for us over the summer."
As of May 23-29, the COVID-19 positivity in all four mid-South Side lakefront ZIP codes is below 5%.
- In 60653, covering North Kenwood and Oakland, there were 27 confirmed cases of COVID-19, compared to 28 the week before, and no deaths, down from one the week before. There was a 3.9% positivity rate out of 877 tests performed. The number of tests performed dropped 22%. Out of the entire population, 40.7% have received a first dose of vaccine, and 30.7% is fully vaccinated.
- In 60615, covering northern Hyde Park, southern Kenwood and northern Washington Park, there were 11 confirmed cases, down from 36 the week before, and no deaths, down from none the week before. There was a 1.1% positivity rate out of 1,242 tests. The number of tests performed dropped 11%. Out of the entire population, 55.6% have received a first dose of vaccine, and 47.5% are fully vaccinated.
- In 60637, covering southern Hyde Park, southern Washington Park and Woodlawn, there were 22 confirmed cases, down from 58 the week before, and no deaths, the same as the week before. There was a 1.5% positivity rate out of 2,374 tests. The number of tests performed dropped 19%. Out of the entire population, 39.2% have received a first dose of vaccine, and 32.4% are fully vaccinated.
- In 60649, South Shore, there were 28 confirmed cases, down from 46 the week before, and one death, down from two the week before. There was a 2.9% positivity rate out of 1,199 tests. The number of tests performed dropped 18%. Out of the entire population, 34.4% have received a first dose of vaccine, and 26.5% are fully vaccinated.
The city’s figures are accurate as of Monday, and change as additional past data comes in.
The University of Chicago has not uncovered a positive case of COVID-19 since the week of May 14. Since Sept. 18, the university has reported 1,143 total cases to the CDPH.
“The move to Phase 5 will have an impact on our campus in the coming weeks and months, and the university is evaluating potential changes to campus policies in alignment with the developing guidance from the city and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” administrators wrote in an update dated June 4. “We will communicate more about potential policy changes soon, including sharing updated plans for gradually increasing staff performing in-person work.”
The city's website for vaccine information is chicago.gov/covidvax. The city's online platform for vaccine scheduling is zocdoc.com/vaccine. City operators are available at 312-746-4835 to handle any questions regarding the vaccine.
The Protect Chicago at Home program, for Chicagoans aged 65 or older and Chicagoans with disabilities or medical conditions that make it hard for them to travel, is available, with appointments also for booking at 312-746-4835.
Howard Brown Health is offering the COVID-19 vaccine to everyone aged 16 and older, with sign-up at 872-269-3600. Katsaros Pharmacy, 1521 E. 53rd St., is offering appointments online at katsarospharmacy.com for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Friend Health is scheduling vaccine appointments at all three of its South Side locations at friendhealth.as.me for the Moderna vaccine.
UChicago Medicine is also now vaccinating everyone, regardless of patient status. The scheduling number is 1-888-824-0200.
The Cook County government is offering sign-up for vaccines at vaccine.cookcountyil.gov.