Chicago COVID 19 Update: City announces increased capacity for indoor dining

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago officials announced Wednesday easing COVID-19 restrictions on bars and restaurants for indoor dining, allowing for increased capacity.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady announced the expansion to 25% capacity or 50 people per-room per-floor, whichever is less. Dr. Arwady said that is an increase from a 25 person capacity to a 50 person capacity.

Arwady said restrictions will be further eased when metrics move into the moderate risk range, with cases below 400 a day. Currently, COVID-19 cases in Chicago are between 400-500 per-day.

SEE ALSO | Chicago COVID vaccine map shows how many residents vaccinated by zip code

Other metrics include test positivity, emergency department visits for COVID and ICU beds occupied by COVID patients.

EMBED More News Videos

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady announces an increase in indoor dining capacity in Chicago.

Anas Ihmoud has spent $150,000 in personal funds and PPE loan proceeds to renovate his restaurant, Barba Yianni Grecian Tavern, and is grateful to be able to welcome more people.

"This gives us some hope, I can still feel I can go all in and my investment will come back to me, because things are getting a little better, the vaccine is out," he said.

The owner for the last 10 years, Ihmoud started as a dishwasher at the restaurant and understands what the raised capacity limits really mean.

"I can employ twice as many employees, almost," he said. "That is very big for me, it is a vital part of keeping this restaurant afloat."

When the city is in the moderate risk range, capacity can increase to 40 percent, with capacity going up to 50% in two weeks if levels hold.

"We are going to take gradual steps, make sure we don't start to see problems and then make another opening," Dr. Arwady said.

"We are definitely trending in the right direction today, and I thank the residents and businesses that continue to do what is necessary to save lives," said Mayor Lightfoot. "The tragedy of this pandemic unfortunately continues but there's hope at the end of this long journey. This path to 50% capacity ensures that we move forward with hope and confidence but also with the necessary precautions in place to ensure that the rush to reopen doesn't endanger our progress."

The update comes as Chicago restaurants have called for raising capacity limits to 50% ahead of the Valentine's Day..

The Chicago Restaurants Coalition pointed out that with lower COVID-19 cases and positivity rates, bowling alleys are now being allowed to open at 40% capacity.
RELATED: Chicago COVID-19: Phase 1C could be delayed due to vaccine scarcity, city's top doc warns

Meanwhile, Dr. Arwady said on Tuesday that Chicago could see the tentative date for Phase 1C vaccinations could be pushed back.

Chicago's projected date for 1C, which would include additional categories of essential workers and those with pre-existing conditions, continues to be March 29. At the moment, however, the city is receiving only 42,000 doses a week.

RELATED: Chicago restaurants push for 50% capacity reopening amid frigid winter weather

"If we don't get significantly more vaccine, like we're anticipating, it's possible we may have to push the date for 1C back, but at this point, we're going with the projections," Dr. Arwady said.
Dr. Arwady said some have tried to help others jump the line by passing the QR code for their second dose appointment to a family member or friend.
RELATED: Chicago COVID-19: Phase 1C could be delayed due to vaccine scarcity, city's top doc warns

"And then we get people coming in, trying to take up our second dose slots to get their first dose," she said. "So, we have ways to track that. We've been able to tell people, sorry, this is only for the second dose. We've got to hold it. But I can't emphasize enough: don't try to game the system."

Officials said they've completed plans for the use of Wrigley Field, the United Center and McCormick Place as mass vaccination sites. But right now, there's not enough vaccine.

SEE ALSO | When can you get the COVID-19 vaccine? Find out where you are in line

"We only get 6,000 doses a day right now across all of Chicago, and so it doesn't make sense to put 5,000 of those in a mass vax site," Dr. Arwady said.
Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.