COVID restrictions could soon ease as cases, hospitalization continue to decline, officials say

CHICAGO (WLS) -- COVID data for Illinois and Chicago is trending in the right direction. So much so, that state and city leaders say if the number of cases and hospitalizations continue to decline, some restrictions might be lifted.

However, those who continue to hold out on getting vaccinated say the current mandates are leaving them with little choice.

Leslie Williamson finally got the shot, but not because she really wanted to. She said being unvaccinated made it hard for her to get into a new job training program, she relented and got her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

"I know they keep going back and forth on the mandates, but it probably will inhibit you from certain jobs," Williamson said.

Jesus Magallom said not being fully vaccinated was also starting to impact his education.

"Whenever they shut down the school for COVID cases, they let students who were vaccinated still go in-person," he said.

A weekend vaccination event encouraged people to get the COVID shot as the city and state report signs of progress in the pandemic.

With metrics improving, the city said the vax mandate could be lifted soon.

Weekly COVID cases in Illinois are down by 51%, which is more than half compared to the previous week. Weekly deaths also fell by 28%, according to health officials.

Illinois is also reporting 10,000 new confirmed and probable COVID cases and 62 more deaths.

And that's not all that's going down.

The 7-day average for vaccine doses administered is decreasing and is now at 28,626, which is the lowest number since October 20.

Chicago Urban League president and CEO, Karen Freeman Wilson, who plans to sponsor another event March 5, said the drop in cases is good news. However, she is remining concerned when people hear that things are getting better, especially those in vulnerable communities that are less likely to get vaccinated.

"They don't wash their hands as often, they take the masks off and they don't feel like they are compelled to get vaccinated," Freeman Wilson said.

While there are those who are concerned that any relaxation of mandates could trigger another surge, there are those who say it is important for us to take that step toward normalcy.

Sean Armstead, co-owner of Phenomenal Fitness in the South Loop said lifting some restrictions would be a game changer for his business.

He said he lost more than half of his clients during the pandemic.

"It would create a different optic for us," he said. "Because the perception is that people have is that there is an above-average threat in gyms."

Meanwhile, officials in Highland Park in Lake County, Illinois, are still going to wait for a February meeting to revisit their restaurant vaccine mandate.

"I'm just continuing to watch the data. Unfortunately, with the test positivity still being high. We're not quite where we need to be," said Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering.
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