Chicago coronavirus restrictions on bars, restaurants, gyms again take effect Friday

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot's COVID-19 restrictions are back in place for indoor bars, fitness centers and more Friday.

Starting Friday in Chicago, all bars and taverns, can no longer serve customers indoors. They must serve outside instead.

Inside restaurants, a party of six is the max, both indoors and outdoors.

New restrictions are now in effect for Chicago gyms, where indoor classes will be limited to 10 people.

Personal services that require face masks to be removed, like facials and shaves, will not be permitted anymore and property managers can only allow five guests per unit.

Officials say it's to help combat a recent rise in COVID19 cases.

"I think this is an extremely crucial moment," said Loyola University Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Kevin Smith. "The question that everybody is wondering is, okay, if we're seeing increases in these cases, are we expecting that we're going to see hospitalizations increase?"

Illinois' positivity rate is now at 3.4%. Thursday was the fourth straight day that number has gone up and it's the highest it's been in nearly six weeks, but hospitalizations are down or flat.

Many business owners are considered these new strict restrictions will cut into their already struggling business even more, especially now with baseball season back for the White Sox and Cubs.

Longtime tavern K's Dugout would normally be very busy with patrons.

"People want to come watch the game tonight, and we don't have a TV outside so they won't be able to; so I don't know how people will show up when there's other places that have food that can still have people inside," Manager Kathy Mathis said.

Officials say the decision is to help combat a recent rise in COVID-19 cases.

But for businesses slowly trying to recoup money they lost during the shutdown earlier this year, it's just more bad news.

"It's very frustrating 'cause you don't know what to expect, and like this weekend it's supposed to get hot again (people) aren't gonna want to sit outside and drink if it's really hot out, so I really don't know what it will do for business, and in the long-term if they don't open the inside back up when it starts to get colder out, then the patio is of no use to us," Mathis said.

Some Orange Theory members had already noticed the change before it even takes effect.

Illinois reports 1,624 new COVID-19 cases

"When you reduce the class sizes, it becomes a lot harder to get into classes," said DJ Ogunsola, noting classes next week are already booked.

Other members are frustrated as well.

"I don't personally agree with it because I think Orange Theory has done a great job of social distancing and a creating a safe space with larger classes," said Rachel Werderits, a fitness member.

Orange Theory has 60 locations in Illinois, totaling more than 100,000 individual workouts statewide since reopening on June 29th, according to Brad Ehrlich, Orange Theory's area developer.

"Our unique structure, combined with our adherence to social distancing and safety guidelines, has kept our staff and our members safe," Ehrlich said in a statement.

Before workouts, the staff checks members' temperatures, asks them health questions, and conducts socially-distant classes. Given that, Orange Theory's leaders are frustrated with the rollback on restrictions.

"We have not one known case of transmission happening within our studios. So to us, the question is what is the data?" asked Adam Paris, an Orange Theory franchisee who owns 12 centers.

Chicago's top health official, Dr. Allison Arwady, points to data from South Korea, where a COVID-19 cluster started in a February fitness class. That research, posted on the CDC website, stated, "Vigorous exercise in confined spaces should be minimized during outbreaks."

Arwady said she's also concerned about the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Chicago. She said there may be five to 10 times more Chicagoans who are infected but not officially diagnosed in the city. Because of the widespread potential to contract the virus, Dr. Arwady said smaller groups are preferable right now, including fitness classes.

"It's a combination of being indoors in the moist indoor-type air, not having as much circulation, the mask helps, the social distancing helps, but we do think there is still some risks because of the amount of COVID that is here," Dr. Arwady said.

But, again, Orange Theory leaders are frustrated because they have not had any COVID-19 person-to-person cases at their facilities.

"We keep hearing about a study that happened in South Korea back in February before anyone was taking this seriously. This is a serious health issue, we take it very seriously here," said Paris.
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