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Chicago could face outdoor dining only — just as wintry weather hits and COVID-19 hits harder

Chicago could face outdoor dining only — just as wintry
weather hits and COVID-19 hits harder 1

Gov. J.B. Pritzker could announce restrictions on indoor bar and restaurant service in Chicago as soon as Tuesday, as coronavirus metrics took another dangerous step in the wrong direction.

While the city has a rolling seven-day average testing positivity rate of 7.8% — just shy of the 8% threshold set by the governor’s office that triggers the state’s COVID-19 “mitigations” — Chicago has seen eight consecutive days of positivity increases and a full week of rising hospital admissions.

Those are the same metrics tripped a day earlier by the suburban Cook County region, where restrictions go into effect Wednesday.

In Chicago, health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady is well aware an indoor dining ban is “imminent,” given the rate of increase in cases. She urged residents to find other ways to support their favorite restaurants, which have been pummeled by the pandemic.

“This is going to be a difficult winter for everybody,” Arwady said at an afternoon news conference. “The more we can be serious about COVID and think about how we can support each other and small businesses is going to be crucial.”

Get take-out, she said, and think about patronizing a place offering outdoor seating, even if it means “eating in an igloo outside.”

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Since last week, when the city ended indoor service in bars and announced a curfew on nonessential businesses, including restaurants, “we’ve not seen improvements” in all the metrics, Arwady says. The city’s positivity rate is 7.8% and on its way to the 8% that would trigger the indoor dining ban.

The rate of increase is now the same as the first wave of coronavirus cases earlier this year, Arwady said, with new cases doubling every nine days. That means in nine days, it will be 1,600 new cases a day — actually topping the first surge.

The governor is scheduled to hold another daily coronavirus briefing Tuesday afternoon.

Statewide, coronavirus metrics have deteriorated to the worst points seen in almost five months as public health officials on Tuesday announced 4,000 more people have contracted the deadly disease.

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The new cases in Illinois were confirmed among 62,074 tests to raise the statewide seven-day average coronavirus testing positivity rate to 6.4%, the highest it’s been since early June.

Hospitals are treating the most coronavirus patients they’ve seen since then, too. As of Monday night, 2,758 Illinois coronavirus patients were hospitalized, with 595 in intensive care units and 241 on ventilators — figures not seen since the springtime, either.

Chicago, meanwhile is adding Florida to its travel advisory list. When that change takes effect on Friday, 31 31 states and Puerto Rico will be on the list, and Arwady said Tuesday that Michigan is on the warning list and would be added next week if it doesn’t drop below 1,500 cases a day.

Under the order, people coming to Chicago (whether they are visiting, or are residents returning home) are supposed to quarantine for 14 days.

The Illinois Department of Public Health also announced 46 more deaths have been attributed to COVID-19, raising the state’s pandemic death toll to 9,568. Nine of the latest victims were from the Chicago area, ranging in age from their 60s to 90s.

The virus has killed an average of 42 Illinoisans per day over the last week, double the death rate this time last month. About 73 Illinoisans were dying with COVID-19 per day over the first week of June, but experts say rising fatalities lag behind rising hospital admissions — and so they’re expected to mount in the weeks ahead.

Chicago cases have continued to dramatically increase across all age groups, including the elderly, but also with many new cases among people in 30’s and 40’s, Arwady said.

One encouraging sign is that Chicago has “not yet seen a surge in deaths,” Arwady said, though she does expect “some increases.” Still, she added, we have “learned a lot about how to care for” patients with COVID-19.

In response to the October resurgence, Pritzker has slapped six of the state’s 11 regions with enhanced business restrictions. The rest of the state is flirting with restrictions too, with all regions at 7% positivity or higher.

Pritzker stood by his administration’s indoor dining bans and said he’ll continue to “follow the science,” as the some defiant operators defy his order.

“We’re going to evolve as we go as we have more information, but right now the studies really don’t show that gathering inside in large numbers in restaurants and bars can be done as safely as other kinds of service,” Pritzker said at a Tuesday morning press conference in Champaign.

“That doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to try to help our bars and restaurants to get on their feet and manage through the winter… The most important thing we can do for businesses right now and for bars and restaurants: everybody wear a mask. I’m asking everyone to keep your social distance, let’s get these numbers down, let’s get these businesses going again.”

Since March, about 7.4 million coronavirus tests have been administered in Illinois and at least 382,985 residents have carried the virus, or about 3% of the population.

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