‘It Is a Great Day’: As COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations Plunge, Illinois, Chicago to Reopen

Video: Dr. Allison Arwady joins “Chicago Tonight” to discuss details and guidelines ahead of an exuberant reopening by the city and state Friday. (Produced by Paul Caine)

Exactly 447 days after Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered Illinois residents to stay home to stop the spread of a deadly virus, the state — including Chicago and suburban Cook County — will reopen fully Friday as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes.

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All businesses will be allowed to operate at full capacity and gatherings of all sizes will be permitted, according to the new rules. Masks will still be required on public transportation and in schools and hospitals as well as for those who are not yet fully vaccinated in all public settings.

“We are so excited to be at a point where COVID is not over, but boy, is it the time to move ahead with reopening and enjoy this amazing city this summer,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health told “Chicago Tonight.” “Everything is headed in the right direction. It is a great day.”

Wrigley Field is set to welcome 41,072 fans to watch the Chicago Cubs take on their division rival, the St. Louis Cardinals — the first time a professional sports team will be allowed to play in front of a capacity crowd in more than a year.

An average of 79 Chicagoans have been diagnosed each day with the coronavirus during the past week, a 41% decrease from the previous week, according to Chicago Department of Public Health data. The city’s test positivity rate has dropped to 1.4% from 1.9% during the past seven days, according to city data.  

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have dropped 44% in the past week, according to city data.

Businesses and municipalities can still require face coverings and social distancing, according to the guidelines. Chicago is likely to drop its mask requirement and capacity limits for city facilities on July 6, Arwady told aldermen during a Thursday afternoon hearing before the City Council’s Health and Human Relations Committee.

More than 68% of Illinois adults have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and the state has reached all-time low levels of new, confirmed cases of the virus as well as hospitalizations, officials said. Additionally, more than 88% those 65 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine.

“I invite all Illinoisans to feel the hope and joy of this moment while also recognizing that this pandemic is still very present for the world at large — not to mention those here at home who have not been or cannot be vaccinated,” Pritzker said in a statement. “As we take this next step forward, let’s do so with a renewed commitment to empathy, to community, and to making each day together count. You did it, Illinois.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot marked the milestone by releasing a plan to encourage Chicagoans and tourists to return downtown and the Loop. The centerpiece of the effort is a proposal to close Michigan Avenue, LaSalle Street, and State Street for special events featuring performances, food and shopping.

Plans call for the southern end of LaSalle Street — in front of the Chicago Board of Trade Building, which is surrounded by office towers — to be closed off to traffic for diners.

State Street, from Lake to Madison streets, is set to close to vehicle traffic for as many as 12 Sundays starting July 11, according to plans announced by the Chicago Loop Alliance in April.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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