The entire state has entered Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois COVID-19 reopening plan, meaning businesses and organizations can resume normal activity, although some limited restrictions remain in place.
On Friday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot held an event downtown to mark the city's reopening.
"This time last year, our city was in a very different place, and it's been 15 months since COVID first came to our city, wreaked havoc on nearly every aspect of our lives and forced us to grapple of fear, loss and grief unlike anything we'd ever experienced before in our lifetime," she said.
"Residents of Chicago, for the past year and some change, have endured so very much, but every step of the way, you still made sure to do your part and stop the spread of this deadly disease. 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."
At this point, businesses can operate without COVID-19 guidelines: no capacity limits, mask mandates or social distancing requirements — though individual businesses can keep stricter guidelines at their own discretion.
Unvaccinated people should still wear masks and social-distance. Masks are still required on mass transit, health care settings, correctional facilities, shelters and schools.
Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, announced that the city had, as of Friday, the fewest number of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic (79), the lowest percent positivity (1.4%) and the lowest number of hospitalizations, people in intensive care and people on ventilators.
"We have made that progress while turning the dial on reopening, and with that, we're turning it all the way open today," she said. "The good news is that we're going to continue making progress if we keep getting vaccinated. I do not want to keep getting up here and start talking about numbers moving in the wrong direction, and the way we don't have to do that is by getting more folks vaccinated."
Lightfoot acknowledged that the pandemic is not over and that there are "pieces of our city that have not seen the uptake in vaccines, particularly on our South Side." If there is another surge, Arwady said she fears people in disproportionately unvaccinated neighborhoods and in unvaccinated social networks would suffer.
Lightfoot promised continued efforts, recalling the canvassing efforts announced last week to launch in community areas like South Shore and Englewood to "bring people into vaccine protection" and "innovative and mobile efforts to get people into vaccine."
"What we know with certainty, through all of this darkness that we've been through: the vaccine will save lives," Lightfoot said.
As of June 10, COVID-19 has infected nearly 1.4 million people in Illinois and claimed at least 23,014 lives.
During an interview with Capitol News Illinois last week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said that even though the state was ready to enter the final reopening phase, he was not yet prepared to lift the disaster proclamation he first issued on March 9, 2020, which has served as the legal basis behind scores of executive orders such as a ban on residential evictions and utility shutoffs. It has been extended monthly since that date.
“It's a new chapter, of course, in the pandemic but we aren't quite ready yet to remove the disaster declaration,” Pritzker said. “There are things that need to be ramped down and, you know, making sure of course that we actually are seeing continued decrease of cases and hospitalizations.”
The March 9 disaster declaration was followed on March 15 by an executive order closing K-12 schools to in-person learning. In the following days Pritzker issued an order closing bars and restaurants to on-premises service and, on March 20, a general stay-at-home order that effectively shut down major parts of the state’s economy.
By April, the state’s unemployment rate had spiked to a modern-day high of 16.3% as tens of thousands of workers each week filed first-time unemployment claims. But as economic restrictions were gradually relaxed over the summer, the jobless rate began to subside, falling to 7.5% in October and, most recently, 7.1% in April.
Asked during his interview with CNI whether, in retrospect, he wished he would have handled things differently, Pritzker said he had to work with the information he had at the time.
“I can tell you that if I knew then what I know now, I'm sure I might have made some different decisions,” he said. “But that just wasn't something available to me. What we had was a novel coronavirus.”
Pritzker added that just a few days before he issued the stay-at-home order he received projections — a copy of which he said remains on his desk — that said if the state took no action, Chicago alone would see 20,000 deaths from COVID-19 by August of that year.
“So we had to make decisions quickly. We had to be decisive about it,” he said. “I needed to be transparent and communicate at 188 press conferences during the year 2020. And it was my job to not only give people the facts, but do that in the face of the president in Washington, D.C., who was lying to people about this. And I think people needed to hear from somebody, somebody that they would be willing to listen to, that they trust.”
“And people did the right thing,” he added. “I mean, this is the amazing thing about Illinois, that we put the mitigations in place, and then people actually followed them and did the right thing, the result of which is many, many lives were saved.”
From May 30 to June 5, COVID-19 positivity on the mid-South Side dramatically reduced and is below 5% in all four lakefront ZIP codes.
- In 60653, covering North Kenwood and Oakland, there were six confirmed cases of COVID-19, compared to 27 the week before, and no deaths, the same as the week before. There was a 1.7% positivity rate out of 646 tests performed. The number of tests performed dropped 28%. Out of the entire population, 39.2% have received a first dose of vaccine, and 33.5% is fully vaccinated.
- In 60615, covering northern Hyde Park, southern Kenwood and northern Washington Park, there were 16 confirmed cases, up from 11 the week before, and no deaths, the same as the week before. There was a 2.2% positivity rate out of 923 tests. The number of tests performed dropped 26%. Out of the entire population, 56.1% have received a first dose of vaccine, and 49.9% are fully vaccinated.
- In 60637, covering southern Hyde Park, southern Washington Park and Woodlawn, there were 12 confirmed cases, down from 22 the week before, and no deaths, the same as the week before. There was a 1% positivity rate out of 1,754 tests. The number of tests performed dropped 27%. Out of the entire population, 39.7% have received a first dose of vaccine, and 34.2% are fully vaccinated.
- In 60649, South Shore, there were 13 confirmed cases, down from 28 the week before, and one death, the same as the week before. There was a 1.5% positivity rate out of 1,363 tests. The number of tests performed rose 12%. Out of the entire population, 33.8% have received a first dose of vaccine, and 28.5% are fully vaccinated.
The city’s figures are accurate as of Friday and change as additional past data comes in.
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.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.