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Chicago reopening 5-phase plan announced by Mayor Lightfoot as coronavirus case curve flattens

By Craig Wall, Stacey Baca, Rob Elgas and ABC 7 Chicago Digital Team

Mayor Lori Lightfoot detailed her plan for reopening Chicago amid the COVID-19 pandemic Friday afternoon. She dubbed the framework, “Protecting Chicago.”

The plan is organized into five phases, like the state’s “Restore Illinois.” Lightfoot and Chicago Public Health officials said the framework will advise Chicagoans on how to safely exit from shelter-in-place, while continue to prioritize the health of vulnerable residents.

“Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, we have been committed to basing our decisions on the science and data related to this disease and communicating our actions to the public in an open and transparent way,” Lightfoot said.

Economic and health data informed the plan, along with a combination of input from industry working groups, health experts and the public, city officials said.

The “Protecting Chicago” framework comprises five phases, and Chicago has already transitioned from phase one (Strict Stay-at-Home) to phase two (Stay-at-Home):

PHASE ONE: STRICT STAY-AT-HOME – Limit the amount of contact with others; goal is to limit interactions to rapidly slow the spread of COVID-19

  • Essential workers go to work; everyone else works from home
  • Stay at home and limit going out to essential activities only
  • Physically distance from anyone you do not live with, especially vulnerable friends and family

PHASE TWO: STAY-AT-HOME – Guard against unsafe interactions with others; goal is to continue flattening the curve while safely being outside

  • Essential workers go to work; everyone else works from home
  • Stay at home as much as possible
  • Wear a face covering while outside your home
  • Physically distance from anyone you do not live with, especially vulnerable friends and family

PHASE THREE: CAUTIOUSLY REOPEN – Strict physical distancing with some businesses opening; goal is to thoughtfully begin to reopen Chicago safely

  • Non-essential workers begin to return to work in a phased way
  • Select businesses, non-profits, city entities open with demonstrated, appropriate protections for workers and customers
  • When meeting others, physically distance and wear a face covering
  • Non-business, social gatherings limited to less than 10 persons
  • Phased, limited public amenities begin to open
  • Stay at home if you feel ill or have come into contact with someone with COVID-19
  • Continue to physically distance from vulnerable populations
  • Get tested if you have symptoms

PHASE FOUR: GRADUALLY RESUME – Continued staggered reopening into a new normal; goal is to further reopen Chicago while ensuring the safety of residents

  • Additional business and capacity restrictions are lifted with appropriate safeguards
  • Additional public amenities open
  • Continue to wear face covering and physically distance
  • Continue to distance and allow vulnerable residents to shelter
  • Get tested if you have symptoms or think you have had COVID-19

PHASE FIVE: PROTECT – Continue to protect vulnerable populations; goal is to continue to maintain safety until COVID-19 is contained
All businesses open

  • Non-vulnerable individuals can resume working
  • Most activities resume with health safety in place
  • Some events can resume
  • Set up screenings and tests at work or with your family
  • Sign up for a vaccine on the COVID Coach web portal

City officials did not provide specifics about when Chicago would transition to the next phase, saying the criteria are rooted in public health guidance and will be reviewed on an ongoing basis.

Officials are also working to determine the appropriate sequencing of reopening businesses and public services, taking into consideration economic enablers, such as transportation and childcare concerns, and keeping an eye toward economically-disadvantaged populations.

Chicago is working with industry-led working groups, with input from community-based organizations, to determine guidance for businesses when they do begin to reopen. This guidance will be developed around three key areas including healthy interactions for workers and customers, safe spaces and working conditions, and operations and monitoring, officials said.

At MLG Salon in Edison Park, it’s a one-chair operation, and the stylist is eager to serve customers.

“I’m ready to go back to work. I know the steps I would need to take to keep my clients safe, and my clients know that I can do that. They are ready to get back in as well,” said Mylissa Genaro, the owner and solo stylist at MLG Salon.

The mayor’s plan is broken down into 10 industry groups. For example, one focuses on restaurants, food and beverage businesses across the city.

Sam Toia, president & CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, will co-lead that group. They’re working on ideas.

“The mayor is thinking outside the box, like maybe we can close some streets and we can have these outdoor cafes moved onto the streets as well, so we have social distancing. So (dining) is not just on the sidewalk,” Toia said.

And as more people get back to work, what does taking the CTA look like – the trains and buses. The mayor says transit agencies across the country are sharing ideas.

“We’re going to continue to think innovatively about ways in which we can move more people and move them safely,” the mayor said.

As part of Phase 3, the mayor sees one-on-one appointments, businesses like Mylissa Genaro’s one-chair salon, as long as health guidelines are followed.

“When we look good, we feel good,” Genaro said. “We need to get everyone out of their depression and feeling great again.”

A “Right to Recovery” coalition, which includes some aldermen, also expressed concerns at a virtual news conference about economic repercussions.

“When we reopen and people are behind three months, and people are behind two months in their rent. And then the evictions start. So it seems to me that there is a lot of information we don’t have,” said 33rd Ward Alderman Rossana Rodriguez.

Chicago is monitoring four questions to determine when and how the transitions take place:

1. Is the rate of disease spread across the city and surrounding counties decreasing?
2. Does the city have the testing and contact-tracing capacity to track the disease and limit spread?
3. Are there enough support systems in place for vulnerable residents?
4. Can the healthcare system handle a potential future surge (including beds, ventilators and personal protective equipment)?

“We also recognize that some populations and families are suffering more than others in this crisis, and we are taking that into consideration as we prepare for reopening as well,” said commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, Dr. Allison Arwady.

The factors being considered to transition from phase two to phase three include:

  • COVID-19 Case Rate (over 14 days, as a rolling average):
    • – Declining rate of new cases, based on incidence and/or percent positivity


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

City officials did not immediately provide information about how and when they would determine the transitions among the later phases, saying it would depend on any new data.

As part of the city’s larger efforts to be prepared for the reopening of the city, on April 23, Lightfoot announced the creation of the COVID-19 Recovery Taskforce to advise city government as economic recovery planning efforts get underway in the wake of COVID-19. The taskforce is co-chaired by Lightfoot and former White House Chief of Staff Sam Skinner and led by a group of industry experts, regional government leaders, community-based partners and policymakers.

Lightfoot was originally scheduled to announce the outline of the plan at 1 p.m. Thursday.

Lightfoot’s plan comes after Gov. JB Pritzker outlined his plan earlier this week, which continues to draw some backlash from the business community. State GOP lawmakers are now demanding Democratic leaders convene a session of the General Assembly, so the legislature can weigh in on reopening.

As part of the reopening strategy, the city is soliciting public input to gauge sentiment on shelter-in-place and ensure the reopening is phased in a way that eases concerns that residents may have. To provide feedback, residents can visit to complete a short survey.

This article originally appeared on ABC7 News.



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