Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a re-tightening of COVID-19 restrictions in response to a recent, rapid rise in cases and hospitalizations over the past two weeks. Beginning Friday, Oct. 23, at 6 a.m., a business curfew will be in effect from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. for all non-essential businesses, and bars without a retail food license will no longer be able to serve customers indoors.
The changes were announced at a press conference attended by Lightfoot and Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D., and Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) Commissioner Rosa Escareno.
All Chicagoans are being asked to avoid social gatherings of more than six people and end all social gatherings by 10 p.m. These restrictions and guidelines will be in effect for at least two weeks and are targeted to help Chicago manage an alarming recent rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
“The rapid rise we’re experiencing in COVID-19 cases across all demographics, zip codes and age groups is consistent with what public health experts and responsible leaders have been predicting for months,” Lightfoot said. “This moment is a critical inflection point for Chicago, and these new restrictions and guidelines represent our ongoing effort to stay ahead of this pandemic through the data and science of this disease. Countless Chicagoans have done an outstanding job in being responsible and following public health guidance, but now we all must double-down on our commitment to our health and the health of our city in order to bend the curve and shape our future back to where it needs to be.”
According to a city news release, over the past week alone, cases have risen by 54%, to over 640 per day. While daily testing has increased to over 11,000 tests per day, the positivity rate has also risen to 6.4%, which means that that the increase in testing does not fully explain the rise in cases. This coincides with an increase in hospitalizations, which are up 45% since Sept. 22 for for non-ICU COVID patients and suspected cases.
Under the State of Illinois guidelines, the Chicago region will face additional mitigation measures, including reduced capacity of all gatherings and closure of indoor dining, if the positivity rate rises above 8% for three straight days.
“The data tell us we’re in the midst of a second surge, and it’s a call to action to re-double our efforts to fight COVID-19,” said Dr. Arwady. ”We bent the curve once, and I know we can do it again by closely adhering to the public health guidance. We don’t take this move lightly, but to be clear, this is about saving lives.”
Effective for two weeks beginning Friday, all non-essential businesses must close to the public from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Businesses that were deemed essential during the stay at home order, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations, may remain open during the business curfew hours. Restaurants may continue operating for take-out or delivery, but indoor or outdoor consumption of food or alcohol must cease at 10 p.m. Additionally, all bars, taverns or breweries that do not have a Retail Food Establishment License will no longer be able to serve customers indoors at any time. All establishments that serve alcohol for on-site consumption must end alcohol service at 9 p.m. before closing at 10 p.m. under the business curfew. All other existing restrictions remain in place, including indoor capacity limits of 40% or 50 people within a room or space.
“We are at the critical moment in Chicago’s fight against COVID-19,” said Escareno. “The efforts of our business community have been essential to our COVID-19 response, and we must once more do what is necessary to save lives.”
BACP will enforce these new restrictions on businesses, with citations leading to fines of up to $10,000 and possible closure in the case of egregious violations. To date, BACP has issued 60 one-day closure orders and ordered the long-term closure of four establishments.
To help businesses understand the new regulations, BACP will hold an informational webinar on Friday, Oct 23, at 2 p.m.
To register for the webinar, visit chicago.gov/businesseducation.