The reopening means crowds of all sizes are allowed in restaurants. It’s great news for still-struggling businesses as venues can return to full capacity without social distancing.
The state is still battling COVID, but the latest case numbers are low enough to reopen safely.
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Gov. JB Pritzker said in a statement Thursday: “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… 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.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady and other city leaders spoke on the reopening Friday morning outside Gibsons Italia.
“Due to the incredible progress we’ve made in our mission to stop the spread of COVID-19, I am thrilled to announce that we are able to safely transition into Phase 5 and become the first major city in the country to fully reopen,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Our ongoing vaccination efforts, which prioritize equity and inclusion, have made a remarkable difference in our COVID-19 journey and have resulted in the lowest positivity rate since the beginning of the pandemic. This progress, as well as ongoing initiatives such as Open Chicago, have allowed us to safely lift capacity limits and reconnect our residents back to the activities they love the most. With today’s announcement and even more residents continuing to do their part and get vaccinated, we are one step closer to being able to put this pandemic in our rearview mirror.”
Chicago is celebrating by partnering with Raise Marketplace and World Business Chicago to give away hundreds of gift cards through July 4. The $250 gift cards will be hidden at locations in all 77 of Chicago’s neighborhoods to encourage people to get back to local businesses. The gift cards can be used on Raise Marketplace at more than 4,000 shops and restaurants in the city.
The city also announced that they have partnered with Lollapalooza to give away 1,000 one-day passes to people who are fully vaccinated. This of course meant to incentivize people to get the vaccine.
Both the mayor and Dr. Arwady pointed out that while we may be able to fully reopen the pandemic is not over. And that at the moment the vast majority of new infections and hospitalizations recorded, over 97% are among those who are not fully vaccinated.
Small restaurant owners are feeling some relief as those restrictions are gone. Tom Konstantopoulos, owner of Omega restaurant in Niles, said during the shutdown, he wanted to keep his employees working, so they remodeled, added partitions between tables, brought in sanitizing stations and more.
“We have upgraded our makeup air systems, we’ve upgraded the motors, we’ve replaced the motors, we’ve replaced belts, we added two new units upstairs to bring more fresh air into the restaurant so we feel that the size of the restaurant and the new units make it very, very safe,” Konstantopoulos said.
Slowly, customers came back at a limited amount. The regulars did the best they can to show their support.
“The family-owned businesses to recover in a pandemic like this is, is very difficult in all facets and to bring it back and stimulate the economy is great for everybody,”
customer Alex Zobel said.
Konstantopoulos said they will ease into reopening, and not fill the restaurant up right away.
A few miles away in Skokie, things are also coming back to life. The park district fitness center can reopen to full capacity, requiring masks for the unvaccinated and their pool will return to full capacity on Monday, just in time for kids to enjoy cooling off in this heat wave, with masks required for people…