May 8, 2020

Mayor Lightfoot and Chicago Department of Public Health Announce Framework for Reopening Chicago Amid Covid-19

Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

CHICAGO – Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, alongside the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), today announced the “Protecting Chicago” framework that the City will be using to guide Chicago’s reopening process amid COVID-19. The framework – organized into five phases in alignment with the State of Illinois’ “Restore Illinois” plan – will advise Chicagoans on how to safely exit from shelter-in-place while continuing to prioritize the health of our most vulnerable residents.

“Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, we have been committed to basing our decisions on the science and data related to this disease and communicating our actions to the public in an open and transparent way,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Though we still have a way to go before we can begin reopening our city, when the time comes, that reopening will follow our thoughtful, data-driven process aimed at ensuring all our residents and businesses are informed and supported every step of the way.”

The framework lays out how the City is thinking about reopening, and the details for each phase are being informed by economic and health data, and a combination of input from industry working groups, health experts and the public. As part of the reopening strategy, the City is soliciting public input to gauge sentiment on shelter-in-place and ensure the reopening is phased in a way that eases concerns that residents may have. To provide feedback, residents can visit to complete a short survey.

The “Protecting Chicago” framework comprises five phases, and Chicago has already transitioned from phase one (Strict Stay-at-Home) to phase two (Stay-at-Home):

PHASE ONE: STRICT STAY-AT-HOME – Limit the amount of contact with others; goal is to limit interactions to rapidly slow the spread of COVID-19

  • Essential workers go to work; everyone else works from home
  • Stay at home and limit going out to essential activities only
  • Physically distance from anyone you do not live with, especially vulnerable friends and family

PHASE TWO: STAY-AT-HOME – Guard against unsafe interactions with others; goal is to continue flattening the curve while safely being outside

  • Essential workers go to work; everyone else works from home
  • Stay at home as much as possible
  • Wear a face covering while outside your home
  • Physically distance from anyone you do not live with, especially vulnerable friends and family

PHASE THREE: CAUTIOUSLY REOPEN – Strict physical distancing with some businesses opening; goal is to thoughtfully begin to reopen Chicago safely

  • Non-essential workers begin to return to work in a phased way
  • Select businesses, non-profits, city entities open with demonstrated, appropriate protections for workers and customers
  • When meeting others, physically distance and wear a face covering
  • Non-business, social gatherings limited to <10 persons
  • Phased, limited public amenities begin to open
  • Stay at home if you feel ill or have come into contact with someone with COVID-19
  • Continue to physically distance from vulnerable populations
  • Get tested if you have symptoms

PHASE FOUR: GRADUALLY RESUME – Continued staggered reopening into a new normal; goal is to further reopen Chicago while ensuring the safety of residents

  • Additional business and capacity restrictions are lifted with appropriate safeguards
  • Additional public amenities open
  • Continue to wear face covering and physically distance
  • Continue to distance and allow vulnerable residents to shelter
  • Get tested if you have symptoms or think you have had COVID-19

PHASE FIVE: PROTECT – Continue to protect vulnerable populations; goal is to continue to maintain safety until COVID-19 is contained

  • All businesses open
  • Non-vulnerable individuals can resume working
  • Most activities resume with health safety in place
  • Some events can resume
  • Set up screenings and tests at work or with your family
  • Sign up for a vaccine on the COVID Coach web portal

The epidemiological criteria for transitioning between phases are rooted in public health guidance and will be reviewed and revisited on an ongoing basis. Health-based metrics are one of the many considerations that the City is weighing to determine the details of the City’s reopening approach and sequencing. Foremost, Chicago is monitoring answers to these four questions in order to help determine when and how the transition between phases takes place:

  1. Is the rate of disease spread across the city and surrounding counties decreasing?
  2. Does the city have the testing and contact-tracing capacity to track the disease and limit spread?
  3. Are there enough support systems in place for vulnerable residents?
  4. Can the healthcare system handle a potential future surge (including beds, ventilators and PPE)?

“While our goal is to get as many people back to work as quickly and safely as possible, we will keep data and science as the north stars of this work, as we have throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, Allison Arwady, M.D. “We also recognize that some populations and families are suffering more than others in this crisis, and we are taking that into consideration as we prepare for reopening as well.”

A set of epidemiological factors has been established to guide the next transition from phase two (Stay-at-Home) to phase three (Cautiously Reopen), including:

  • COVID-19 Case Rate (over 14 days, as a rolling average):
    • Declining rate of new cases, based on incidence and/or percent positivity
  • Severe Outcome Rate (over 14 days, as a rolling average):
    • Stable or declining rates of cases resulting in hospitalization, ICU admission, and/or death
  • Hospital Capacity Citywide (over 14 days, as a rolling average):
    • Hospital beds: <1800 COVID patients
    • ICU beds: <600 COVID patients
    • Ventilators: <450 COVID patients
  • Testing Capacity:
    • Test at least 5% of Chicago residents per month
  • Testing Percent Positivity Rates (over 14 days, as a rolling average):
    • Congregate: <30% positive tests
    • Community: <15% positive tests
  • Syndromic Surveillance (over 14 days, as a rolling average):
    • Declining emergency department visits for influenza-like illness and/or COVID-like illness
  • Case Investigation & Contact Tracing:
    • Expanded system in place for congregate and community investigations and contact tracing

The specific health criteria for transition between the latter phases will be established and released over the coming weeks to ensure the City is open and responsive to new data and information as it arises. In addition to determining the health-based metrics to move from one phase to the next, the City is actively determining the appropriate sequencing of reopening businesses and public services – taking into consideration both economic enablers such as transportation and childcare concerns, as well as keeping an eye towards economically disadvantaged populations.

The City is working with industry-led working groups, with input from community-based organizations, to determine guidance for businesses when they do begin to reopen. This guidance will be developed around three key areas including healthy interactions for workers and customers, safe spaces and working conditions, and operations and monitoring. While the City will be working to move forward in this approach towards the final phase (Protect), Mayor Lightfoot and Dr. Arwady are assessing the City’s preparedness every day in hopes there will be no need to move backwards along this path.

“As we set our sights on safely reopening Chicago’s economy, we applaud Mayor Lightfoot for assembling a task force representing multiple industries to provide recommendations and best practices,” said Sam Toia, President and CEO, Illinois Restaurant Association. "I am honored to lead the working team for the food and beverage sector, as restaurants and bars are the cornerstones of our 77 communities. Under Mayor Lightfoot’s leadership and with this joint effort between civic, business and community stakeholders, we look forward to getting everyone back to work safely.”

As part of the City’s larger efforts to be prepared for the reopening of the city, on April 23, Mayor Lightfoot announced the creation of the COVID-19 Recovery Taskforce to advise city government as economic recovery planning efforts get underway in the wake of COVID-19. The Taskforce is co-chaired by Mayor Lightfoot and former White House Chief of Staff Sam Skinner and led by a group of industry experts, regional government leaders, community-based partners, and policymakers. Together, these leaders are providing critical insights to help Mayor Lightfoot as her administration works to balance a robust health response with a strategic economic response that addresses the unique challenges presented by COVID-19.  

A Spanish-language translation of the reopening is available here.