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Photograph: Michelle Kuo

Chicago museums can reopen under newly relaxed COVID-19 restrictions

Chicago has fallen back to Tier 2 in the Illinois Resurgence Mitigation Plan.

Zach Long
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Zach Long
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As of Monday, January 18, Chicago has officially moved back to Tier 2 of the Illinois Resurgence Mitigation Plan as part of a change in the metrics that the Illinois Department of Public Health has used up to this point.

Under Tier 2 mitigations, Chicago's cultural institutions (including museums and arts centers) will be able to reopen to guests at a reduced capacity, while indoor gatherings of 10 or fewer people will once again be sanctioned. Indoor sports facilities and fitness centers will also be able to reopen with a maximum of 25 guests or 25 percent capacity, whichever is fewer. Indoor fitness classes can also resume, with a limit of 10 guests.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has recently been lobbying the state for a partial reopening of indoor dining in Chicago, but Tier 2 mitigations only allow restaurants to host guests outdoors.

Chicago has not met the requirement for staffed hospital bed availability needed to move back to Tier 2 mitigations, but the Illinois Department of Public Health launched a series of healthcare staffing contracts to increase hospital staffing throughout the state. "IDPH and hospital leaders feel confident that metrics can safely move away from utilizing medical/surgical bed limits to move across mitigation tiers, allowing more regions to advance," according to a release.

Unfortunately, the loosening in restrictions comes just days after a new variant of COVID-19 (first identified in the United Kingdom) was found in a Chicago patient last week. IDPH director Dr. Ngozi Ezike addressed the timing of the announcement in a release: "With new variants of COVID-19 spreading, it is more important than ever to follow the public health guidance that keeps people safe—wear your mask and watch your distance."

Don't expect museums and other cultural institutions to reopen their doors immediately—Chicago is still under a stay-at-home advisory through January 22, discouraging residents from leaving their homes for non-essential reasons. Last week, a Museum of Contemporary Art representative told us that the institution is monitoring the situation to ensure the safety of guests, suggesting that the MCA and other local museums are balancing state regulations with their own safety standards. We'll be keeping an eye out to see which institutions decide to reopen their doors in the coming weeks.

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