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2 Chicago-Area Counties Could Soon Bring Back Indoor Dining; Ill. Region Near Phase 4

NBC Chicago logo NBC Chicago 1/20/2021
a dining room table: An empty luxurious restaurant with large wooden cabinets and leather seating. © Getty Images

An empty luxurious restaurant with large wooden cabinets and leather seating.

Two Chicago-area counties could be headed for Tier 1 mitigations soon, allowing them to reopen indoor dining at restaurants in a limited capacity.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, Region 7, home to Will and Kankakee counties, is trending in the right direction to enter Tier 1.

Currently, the region is the only one in the Chicago area still under Tier 3 mitigations. Most of the area is under Tier 2 mitigations with some counties reaching Tier 1 earlier this week.

In addition to Region 7's progress, IDPH also reports Region 6 could enter Phase 4 beginning Thursday.

"If all the mitigation metrics continue to improve, Region 6 will move into Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan on Thursday," the department said Wednesday. "And Region 7 is on target to move into Tier 1."

It remains unclear when exactly Region 7 could reach Tier 1, but according to the latest metrics reported by the state, the area is only waiting to see daily declines in hospital patients.

As of Wednesday, the region saw declines in three of the last 10 days, but will need to reach seven of the last 10 days to begin lifting restrictions.

The region's positivity rate Wednesday was reported at 7.4%, well below the 8% threshold for Tier 1.

Though it was not mentioned by the state health department Wednesday, Chicago officials are also hoping the city could soon reach the return of indoor dining.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday that Tier 1 could be in the near future, with the city potentially meeting the required metrics by the weekend.

"So here in Chicago, our number of COVID cases in the hospital is going down well, our ICU capacity adequate and our positivity had come down. And so really, as of now, still in restaurants and bars, there is no indoor service - that's allowed in the next tier, which we may possibly be able to move toward as early as, you know, possibly over the weekend, early next week, depending where this number goes," Arwady said.

As of Tuesday, Chicago's average positivity rate sat at 8.1%.

To move from Tier 2 to Tier 1, a region must have an average test positivity rate below 8% for three consecutive days, at least 20% of staffed ICU beds available for three consecutive days and a sustained decrease in the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 for seven out of 10 days, on a 7-day average.

"We need to be averaging under 8% consistently, and that's as the state calculates it, so we're still a few days, it could be a week away from this, but if progress continues in the right way, I think it is likely that we may be able to move all the way to the Tier 1 mitigation, which is when we are able to reopen indoor dining with a lot of restrictions on it - 25% capacity, only four people at a table, etc.," Arwady said. "So we're not there yet, but I want you to know that the way the numbers are heading, I am feeling very optimistic that hopefully within just a short period of time here, Chicago will be able to move ahead."

Almost all of Illinois was allowed to loosen certain restrictions this week after state health officials changed the guidelines to move between tiers and phases.

The state's health department announced that due to a change in staffing contracts, which increases hospital staffing across the state, the hospital bed availability metric used in determining a region's tier or phase will now only include ICU beds, not all hospital beds available in the region.

For a full breakdown of what's allowed in each tier click here.

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