Lightfoot sets guidelines for reopening Chicago

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(Photo by Heidi Zeiger, Chicago Mayor's Office)

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, along with the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), recently announced the “Protecting Chicago” framework that the city will use to guide Chicago’s reopening process amid COVID-19.

The framework – organized into five phases in alignment with the State of Illinois’ “Restore Illinois” plan – will advise Chicagoans on how to safely exit from shelter-in-place while continuing to prioritize the health of the most 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,” explained Lightfoot.

“Though we still have a way to go before we can begin reopening our city, when the time comes, that reopening will follow our thoughtful, data-driven process aimed at ensuring all our residents and businesses are informed and supported every step of the way.”

The framework lays out how the city is thinking about reopening, and the details for each phase are being informed by economic and health data, and a combination of input from industry working groups, health experts and the public.

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 https://www.chicago.gov/coronavirus/reopeningsurvey to complete a short survey.

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

Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, Allison Arwady, M.D. commented, “While our goal is to get as many people back to work as quickly and safely as possible, we will keep data and science as the north stars of this work, as we have throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.” She noted further, “We also recognize that some populations and families are suffering more than others in this crisis, and we are taking that into consideration.”

The specific health criteria for transition between the latter phases will be established and released over the coming weeks to ensure the city is open and responsive to new data and information as it arises.

In addition to determining the health-based metrics to move from one phase to the next, the city is actively determining the appropriate sequencing of reopening businesses and public services – taking into consideration both economic enablers such as transportation and childcare concerns, as well as keeping an eye towards economically disadvantaged populations.

The city 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.

Sources say while the city will be working to move forward in this approach towards the final phase (Protect), Lightfoot and Arwady are assessing the city’s preparedness every day in hopes there will be no need to move backwards along this path.

“As we set our sights on safely reopening Chicago’s economy, we applaud Mayor Lightfoot for assembling a task force representing multiple industries to provide recommendations and best practices,” noted Sam Toia, President and CEO, Illinois Restaurant Association.

“I am honored to lead the working team for the food and beverage sector, as restaurants and bars are the cornerstones of our 77 communities. Under Mayor Lightfoot’s leadership and with this joint effort between civic, business and community stakeholders, we look forward to getting everyone back to work safely.”

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.

It is said these leaders are providing critical insights to help Lightfoot as her administration works to balance a robust health response with a strategic economic response that addresses the unique challenges presented by COVID-19.

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