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Indoor dining in Chicago could increase to 50 percent capacity in the coming weeks

Chicago's top doc announces new benchmarks for reopening restaurants and bars.

Morgan Olsen
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Morgan Olsen
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Chicago officials today revealed their roadmap for further reopening restaurants and bars. As of Thursday, February 11, restaurants and events can expand their capacity to 25 percent or 50 people per room, whichever is fewer. That's up from the 25-person limit that went into effect last month, when indoor dining first returned. It's a move that mostly benefits larger restaurants with more spacious dining rooms.

It's a small allowance, but there's more coming soon. According to Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, the city will expand indoor dining capacity to 40 percent as soon as the city reaches the "Moderate-Risk" level in the following metrics:

  • COVID cases diagnosed per day
  • COVID test positivity
  • Emergency department visits for COVID-like illness
  • Total number of ICU beds occupied by COVID patients

Arwady noted that the city will make the switch when the average case number per day dips below 400. According to Chicago's COVID dashboard, the seven-day rolling average is currently 466 daily cases. From there, officials will then target reopening Chicago restaurants and bars at 50 percent capacity. That will only happen if the city is able to maintain a "Moderate-Risk" or "Low-Risk" status for an additional two weeks, or one incubation period.

"I'm very hopeful that just over the next few weeks, if we continue to see the progress that we've made already, we'll be at a point to be able to move to a 50 percent capacity," Arwady says. "Our epidemiologists will continue to monitor this. ... We're going to take gradual steps, make sure we don't start to see problems and then make another opening."

Though Arwady seemed hopeful about these advancements in Chicago's reopening plan, she warned that now is not the time to slack on safety measures.

"But please do not mistake good news for 'COVID is over,'" Arwady says. "We need you to continue, now more than ever, wearing your masks, social distancing, washing your hands and please educate yourself so when you have the opportunity to get the vaccine, you're able to be vaccinated with confidence."

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