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Chicago joins Illinois in lifting COVID restrictions

Chicago officials declared the city fully reopened on Friday, ending a requirement that people wear face masks in most indoor places and lifting capacity limits intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Chicago sometimes veered from the state’s restrictions and opted to be stricter or more lenient than the state required. But city officials decided to join the rest of Illinois in lifting restrictions Friday, nearly 15 months after Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued the first stay-at-home order as COVID-19 cases began to rise.

People who are not vaccinated must still wear a mask indoors, and everyone will still need to wear masks inside health care facilities, jails, shelters, schools, taxis, ride-hailing vehicles and on public transportation. And businesses can still opt to require people to wear masks on their premises.

According to the city’s Department of Public Health, about 45% of Chicago residents were fully vaccinated as of Thursday. Mayor Lori Lightfoot acknowledged that the rate is lower in some parts of the city, particularly in the largely Black communities on the South Side.

“Folks, get the vaccine,” Lightfoot said at a news conference Friday. “It’s widely available, it’s free and it’s safe.”

Chicago has continued to offer perks for getting vaccinated, including a concert series, and officials hope continued pop-up events and mobile vaccination efforts will reach people unable or resistant to getting inoculated.

Dr. Allison Arwady, the director of the city’s Department of Public Health, said the number of new COVID-19 cases and the rate of positive test results is at the lowest levels since the pandemic began. But she also expressed concern that a resurgence of the virus “would land in unvaccinated communities and unvaccinated social networks.“

“We’re not done vaccinating, but I’m very confident again that now is the time to move ahead with that reopening,” Arwady said. “But we’ve got to keep getting people vaccinated.”

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