Chicago becomes largest US city to fully reopen from Covid restrictions

Coronavirus

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – JUNE 11: A flag is unfurled on the field prior to a game between the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field on June 11, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. Following the City of Chicago’s transition to Phase 5, the ballpark officially opened at full capacity for the first time since September 2019. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Chicago officials declared the city fully reopened on Friday, ending a requirement that people wear face masks in most indoor places and lifting capacity limits intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Chicago sometimes veered from the state’s restrictions and opted to be stricter or more lenient than the state required. But city officials decided to join the rest of Illinois in lifting restrictions Friday, nearly 15 months after Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued the first stay-at-home order as COVID-19 cases began to rise.

For the first time since the 2019 season, The Chicago Cubs took on the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field Friday in front of a full crowd.

All crowd limits are off for theaters, concert venues and museums. Busses and trains are now open for full ridership too.

“When people see that downtown is fully reopened … I think there’s a real hunger to be back together,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a news conference Friday.

However, it doesn’t mean everything is back to normal. People who aren’t vaccinated must still wear a mask indoors, and everyone will still need to wear masks inside health care facilities, jails, shelters, schools, taxis, ride-hailing vehicles and on public transportation. Businesses can also still opt to require people to wear masks on their premises.

According to the city’s Department of Public Health, 69% of all adults in Illinois have been vaccinated. About 45% of Chicago residents were fully vaccinated as of Thursday. Lightfoot acknowledged that the rate is lower in some parts of the city, particularly in the largely Black communities on the South Side.

“Folks, get the vaccine,” Lightfoot said. “It’s widely available, it’s free and it’s safe.”

Chicago has continued to offer perks for getting vaccinated, including a concert series, and officials hope continued pop-up events and mobile vaccination efforts will reach people unable or resistant to getting inoculated.

States around the country reopened as early as March.

In the Northeast, which saw states loosen restrictions with lower COVID-19 cases, Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee extended the emergency declaration to July 9. In Massachusetts, the state of emergency will end on June 15.

Only 14 states have arrived at 70 percent of fully or partially vaccinated adults which is far below President Joe Biden’s July 4 target of having the entire nation at those levels. Much of the Midwest and the South have been less than enthusiastic about getting the vaccine.

Next week, Vice President Kamala Harris will kick off a campaign in the South to encourage inoculation and education in South Carolina and Georgia. 

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