The fireworks and festivities throughout Chicago on Independence Day this summer could hold some additional significance, beyond the usual celebration of our nation's self-government. During a press conference announcing the return of the Chicago Auto Show in July, Mayor Lori Lightfoot revealed her target for a complete reopening of the city. "Our goal, ladies and gentlemen, is to be fully open by July 4," Mayor Lightfoot said, encouraging residents to continue to get vaccinated and help drive down case numbers in the coming weeks.
The announcement comes on the heels of last week's debut of the Open Chicago initiative, which increased capacity in public spaces, made way for the return of large-scale events and outlined a Chicago Bridge Phase that will further increase capacity at events, businesses and venues throughout the city. Mayor Lightfoot's comments suggest that Chicago is on-track to enter the Bridge Phase in the coming weeks, assuming that vaccinations continue on pace and confirmed cases continue to drop.
While the city hopes to drop all capacity restrictions by July 4, Mayor Lightfoot suggested that mask use would still be encouraged. "I think the reality is that people are going to wear mask—and I think that's a good thing," Mayor Lightfoot said. "We've seen from the experience of Asian countries, for example, that have had successive crises around public health, now it's standard fare for people to wear masks. I think that's something we're going to see here in the U.S. for probably at least the next year."
Chicago's goal for a full reopening may seem aggressive, but it's in-line with the progress the state of Illinois has made over the past few weeks. On Monday, Governor J.B. Pritzker revealed that Illinois may enter its bridge phase as soon as next week, increasing capacity at all sorts of businesses and events. Of course, those capacity increases won't necessarily apply to Chicago, which is operating on its own reopening timeline.
With New York City dropping most capacity restrictions on May 19, Chicago won't be the first city to shed its COVID-19 precautions entirely. But that didn't stop Mayor Lightfoot from proclaiming, "We will be one of the first cities to fully and safely reopen in the nation."
In the meantime, the best way you can help Chicago move toward a full reopening is to get vaccinated, encourage your unvaccinated friends to do the same and continue to wear your mask in crowded spaces. We can see the light (and the fireworks) at the end of the tunnel, but there's still plenty of work to be done.