As Chicago prepares to lift its vaccine and mask mandates in many places next week, some businesses say they are relieved, while others have announced plans to continue with COVID precautions despite the city’s plans.
Artango the restaurant in Lincoln Square, owners and customers were delighted with the news Tuesday that the city will remove most of its restrictions Covid on 28 February.
“We are really happy about it,” said Javier Lopinto. “After two years, we are ready to take it out and show our smiles and faces. We are really happy.
Meanwhile, Broadway in Chicago and the League of Chicago Theaters have announced plans to continue masking and vaccination requirements for audiences.
“In these changing times, the coalition of more than 60 performing arts venues and producers across Chicagoland, who came together in the fall of 2021 to create unified COVID-19 guidelines, will continue their demands for vaccinations and Covid-19 mask for the public”, the league press release read on Tuesday. “This unified COVID-19 protection protocol will be in effect until further notice and will be reviewed regularly based on the needs and comfort of our customers, staff and performers and may be relaxed at any time.”
The Chicago Restaurants Association says the reversal is a good start, but more help is needed to help restaurants get back on their feet after a long period of the pandemic.
“If the federal money doesn’t come, we fear thousands of restaurants (across the country) will close. It can’t happen,” said ARC’s Roger Romanelli. “The owners are on the verge of bankruptcy. We need action from your senators, the mayor, the governor. Illinois must lead the way to save American restaurants.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot acknowledged that many businesses may choose to keep the current guidelines in place.
“It’s up to individual companies to decide how they want to move forward,” she said. “And I expect that based on the conversations I’ve had in correspondence, I’ve seen that some will just continue to apply, whether it’s a mask mandate or the vaccinations themselves, but it’s their choice.”
Even as the mandates are rescinded, they will remain in place in some locations, including public transportation, Congregate living facilities and health care facilities.
The city’s plan to drop its vaccination and mask proof mandates on Feb. 28 aligns with both suburban Cook County and the state of Illinois.
The COVID metrics the city was monitoring to help determine whether to roll back the mitigations show that Chicago is indeed making progress in several key areas, with hospitalizations at a low not seen since August and the city’s positivity rate now at 1.5%, well below what the CDC considers a “lower transmission” risk for the virus.
Many Chicago residents are in favor of the decision to cancel the mitigation measures, claiming that the city plans are what the data show.
“You want to do what makes sense,” said Gary Wald. “And put restrictions in place when the going gets tough. I think everyone thought that when they got better, they would calm down.
That being said, not all residents are fully on board.
“I was mixed,” said Mary Ceron. “I feel a little nervous about it because I was getting used to the mask mandate. I enjoyed the map (too).
Still, residents hope the rollback of mitigation measures shows the city and state are learning to live with COVID-19 as new treatments become available.
“I think it’s a sign,” Ceron said. “Hope and move forward.