Ever since Gov. J.B. Pritzker teased the state that he’d like to eliminate the indoor mask mandate by Thanksgiving, restaurant and bar owners have awaited an update. With the thermometer sinking and the end of daylight saving time, patio business has predictably tanked. However, early fall stats from health experts show the mandate won’t be banished anytime soon. The mask mandate was reinstated in August.
Though COVID-19 numbers declined in September and October, November has seen an increase. Axios reports that from October 21 to November 4, Chicago’s daily rate has jumped 32 percent. The city’s daily case average, as of Tuesday, sits at 382.
That’s bad news for getting rid of the mask mandate as Chicago Health Department Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady tells Axios that the city’s average daily caseload would need to sink to under 200 for two weeks to consider lifting the requirement. Arwady blames colder weather that’s forcing more folks indoors, thus giving the virus a greater opportunity to spread. Elsewhere across the country, in warmer southern states and in cities like Atlanta, local officials have removed indoor mask requirements.
Chicago’s winters are boons to delivery and carryout sales under normal circumstances. However, bars do substantial business during the colder months. Business owners say that they’re frustrated and fatigued. They are warning Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot that they don’t want state and local officials to prematurely lift the mask mandate and then bring it back after a few weeks or months. The city and state’s vaccination rates will influence those decisions. The city’s goal is 77 percent, to match the number of Chicago neighborhoods. The good news is that the city is close as the latest figures show 65 percent of Chicagoans 12 or older have received at least one dose.
And there’s good news for restaurants that cater to families like pizzerias and diners which have seen business plummet with parents hesitant to bring in their unvaccinated children. As kids are finally eligible for vaccines, Chicago Public Schools is joining luminaries like Big Bird in encouraging youngsters to get their shots. CPS cancelled classes on Friday to give students more time for immunizations. Yes, Mr. Rodgers, “immunized” — at least in this case — means the same thing as “vaccinated.”