Suburban Cook, Chicago restaurant owners celebrate return of limited indoor dining
Restaurateurs said they were elated at being able to reopen for indoor dining Saturday after the state announced in the morning that limited service could resume in suburban Cook County and in Chicago.
The two areas have moved into Tier 1 under the state's COVID-19 mitigation plan, state officials said in an announcement that had been widely anticipated.
"We are very excited, I can tell you that," said Anna Maria Zito, who with her husband, Giacomo, owns Giacomo's Ristorante Italiano in Des Plaines.
Rules under Tier 1 mitigation restrictions allow bars and restaurants to offer indoor service to 25 guests or 25% capacity, whichever is less.
Establishments must close at 11 p.m. and reopen no earlier than 6 a.m., and they must serve food to be open for indoor service. There is a limit of two-hour reservations and four people per party. Tables must be 6 feet apart with no ordering or seating at the bar counter.
Meetings, events and social gatherings are limited to under 25 people or 25% of the overall room capacity, both indoors and outdoors, whichever is less. Under Tier 2 restrictions, gatherings were limited to 10 people.
The Illinois Department of Public Health also reported Saturday 5,152 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, including 97 additional deaths from the respiratory disease.
Those who died included 26 people in Cook County, four people in DuPage County, four people in Kane County, 13 people in Lake County, one person in McHenry County and one person in Will County.
Altogether, there have been 1,098,527 cases of the disease, including 18,711 deaths, across Illinois.
As of Friday night, 3,121 people in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 644 patients were in the ICU and 338 patients were on ventilators. The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total tests is 4.9%, while test positivity is 6.0%.
The state was divided into 11 health regions during the pandemic.
Suburban Cook County and Chicago are in regions 10 and 11, respectively. Region 9, which includes Lake and McHenry counties, and Region 8, which includes Kane and DuPage counties, are still under Tier 2 mitigation rules.
At Emmett's Brewing Company in Palatine, the mood Saturday was happy after a good lunch crowd and with a bunch of reservations for dinner, manager Shawn Ainsworth said.
"We had a feeling it (the guideline change) was going to come, so we staffed up for today," he said. "It's good to see some of the regulars."
Walter Oswald, owner of Brandt's of Palatine, said the restaurant has an outdoor heated deck, but it's great to reopen for indoor dining. "Employees are working again and we can take care of the community that has been supporting us."
Zito said Giacomo's will reopen Wednesday to allow time for a thorough sanitizing of the dining room and employees coming back to work.
"Our restaurant has remained closed and followed the guidelines through the entire COVID-19," Zito said, "so this is a big deal for us to reopen again."
State health officials said they will continue to monitor test positivity, ICU bed availability and the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 to determine if each region should move up or down.
"Should data show regions trending in the wrong direction, based on the established mitigation metrics, regions could once again find themselves in a higher tier with increased measures," the announcement said.
The three concurrent factors that allowed moving from Tier 2 to Tier 1 are a test positivity rate between 6.5% and 8% for three consecutive days, staffed ICU bed availability greater than 20% for three consecutive days, and no sustained increase in COVID-19 patients in hospitals.