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Chicago Mayor: City Won’t Be Ready for Outdoor Dining on May 29

“I don’t think we’re going to be ready by May 29 but my hope is soon in June we’re going to be ready,” Lightfoot said during a press briefing.

By NBC Channel 5 News

Despite Illinois allowing restaurants to reopen for outdoor seating in phase three of its reopening plan, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said city residents shouldn’t expect that to happen this month.

“I don’t think we’re going to be ready by May 29 but my hope is soon in June we’re going to be ready,” Lightfoot said during a press briefing Thursday.

Chicago sits within a region that is, along with all of Illinois’ other health regions, on track to reopen as early as May 29 under state standards, but Lightfoot had previously unveiled her own reopening plan for city residents.

“May 29 is the expiration date of the stay-at-home order,” Lightfoot said. “As everyone surely knows, the city of Chicago has its own responsibilities and obligations to craft policies, public health policies, that are specific to the city of Chicago and we are hard at work on looking at ways in which we can get our restaurant industry back up.”

Lightfoot acknowledged that she is working with local aldermen on plans to allow street closures to accommodate for additional outdoor seating at eateries, but did not offer a specific timeline.

“Like everything, we’ve got to do it safely. I need to understand and be certain that restaurants across the city have a means to protect their employees and members of the public that will patronize them,” she said. “That’s why we’ve been talking openly about well, what do we think about creating some closed streets, open spaces for restaurants to be able to open up and use the open spaces, but the reality is the other piece of it.”

Lightfoot declined to give a “magic date,” but said the decision will be made when the city meets the health metrics laid out in her city-specific five-phased reopening plan.

“The reality is … no restaurant I know of is going to be able to survive based on what the weather is like on a typical day in Chicago,” Lightfoot said. “I think having the opportunity to do it and dine al-fresco on a larger scale, which is what we certainly are talking about, is important, but they also need the ability to be able to be inside as well.”

Lightfoot also acknowledged that a timeline for reopening the city’s lakefront has still not been determined.

“I’m very worried about a spike and a surge in cases when we do open back up,” she said. “We’re going to work to mitigate against that but having thousands of people along the lakefront will be the surest way to set us back.”

Lightfoot said in a one-on-one interview with NBC 5 Tuesday that she does plan on reopening the lakefront “at some point this summer.”

“I think there are ways in which we could open the lakefront safely, but there are going to be limits,” Lightfoot said in the interview. “There are going to be limits on the kind of activity, there are going to be limits on the amount of people.”

She noted the city is working on guidance for residents and likened the city’s reopening to slowly turning on a dimmer rather than flipping a switch.

Here’s a look at the criteria Chicago must meet in order to enter phase three:

• COVID-19 Case Rate (over 14 days, as a rolling average):
o Declining rate of new cases, based on incidence and/or percent positivity
• Severe Outcome Rate (over 14 days, as a rolling average):
o Stable or declining rates of cases resulting in hospitalization, ICU admission, and/or death
• Hospital Capacity Citywide (over 14 days, as a rolling average):
o Hospital beds: <1800 COVID patients
o ICU beds: <600 COVID patients
o Ventilators: <450 COVID patients
• Testing Capacity:
o Test at least 5% of Chicago residents per month
• Testing Percent Positivity Rates (over 14 days, as a rolling average):
o Congregate: <30% positive tests
o Community: <15% positive tests
• Syndromic Surveillance (over 14 days, as a rolling average):
o Declining emergency department visits for influenza-like illness and/or COVID-like illness
• Case Investigation & Contact Tracing:
o Expanded system in place for congregate and community investigations and
contact tracing

This article originally appeared on NBC Channel 5 News.

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