Chicago business owners frustrated; city's restrictions may not lift with Illinois mask mandate end

COVID Illinois: City of Chicago vaccine mandate, face mask requirements may not end Feb. 28, date Gov. JB Pritzker set for state

Jessica D'Onofrio Image
Wednesday, February 16, 2022
Business owners frustrated by lack of Chicago plan to lift mandates
It's unclear when face mask and COVID vaccine requirements will be lifted in the city.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Frustration is growing over the differing timelines for lifting COVID-19 mandates in Chicago and the state.

While COVID case numbers and hospitalizations have been on a downward trend in Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot won't commit to eliminating the mask and vaccine mandate in indoor spaces by the end of the month, in line with the state's plan.

Lightfoot said the city is "making tremendous progress" in bringing down COVID-19 cases, but added that 500 cases per day is "not where we want to be," saying "we're still seeing too many people dying every day from COVID."

"I don't want to put an artificial date on when this is going to happen when we still see some danger signs in the data," Lightfoot said. "February 28 is obviously the date that the state set; it's not the date that the city set."

At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said the city is averaging 431 cases per-day, above the 400 cases-per day threshold signaling high transmission.

Dr. Allison Arwady gives an update on COVID-19 in Chicago.

Dr. Arwady said they are using case numbers, test positivity, hospital bed availability and ICU bed availability to make determinations on COVID mitigations, with three of four metrics needing to be in blue or green level for low transmission.

Currently the test positivity is in the lower transmission range, with ICU availability and hospital availability possibly moving into the lower transmission category soon, Dr. Arwady said.

Hospitalizations are down 75% from their high.

"Certainly if the difference is a matter of a few days between where the city is and where the state is recommending, I would expect we would go along with that, but we need to see these metrics be in blue or green," Dr. Arwady said. "I think next week when we stand up, and we look at where things are, we'll be able to give a more definitive answer."

READ MORE: Pritzker to lift Illinois mask mandate for some

"If we are not able to move on the 28th, I think it would probably be not very long after that. But if it's the difference of just a few days, I don't think it's worth the potential confusion to the public. But if we're talking about a week difference, for example, we might extend it. We've got to hit the data points," Arwady said.

But COVID numbers in the city are plunging; daily cases have fallen 95% from their peak in late December.

And many business owners are getting frustrated with the city, especially those in the restaurant industry, which has been hit hard by the pandemic.

On the North Side, business owners aren't satisfied with the still-uncertain plan.

"Open it up now. Let's not play games with the numbers, and let's let the economy roll," said Leonard DeFranco, co-owner of Hawkeye's Bar And Grill.

DeFranco is among many restaurant owners feeling left in the dark.

"It riles me. It frustrates me. It makes me angry," he said. "Really? We're talking about a matter of a few days is going to make a difference?"

DeFranco is not the only one frustrated; another restaurant owner said if the city mandates go past Feb. 28, she's not going to enforce them.

Gov. JB Pritzker said last week he anticipates the state's indoor mask mandate for venues that are not schools, hospitals and public transit will lift on Feb. 28 as COVID hospitalizations continue to drop.

"We are now seeing the fastest rate of decline in our COVID-19 hospitalization metrics since the pandemic began," Pritzker said.