With restrictions eased in four more counties, indoor dining allowed across the suburbs
State officials eased COVID-19 restrictions in DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties Tuesday, allowing indoor dining at restaurants and bars with capacity limits.
The move to less strict "Tier 1" COVID-19 mitigations also allows gatherings of 25 people, increases capacity at fitness centers and allows for more recreational activities.
Suburban Cook County and Chicago shifted into Tier 1 on Saturday, with restaurants reopening over the weekend. Will and Kankakee counties upgraded to Tier 1 on Jan. 21.
The news comes as the state on Tuesday reported 3,667 new cases of COVID-19 and 87 more deaths from the respiratory disease.
Illinois hospitals were treating 3,001 COVID-19 patients as of Monday night.
The positivity rate for virus cases is now 4.6% based on a seven-day average.
A total of 69,285 Illinois tests were processed by labs in the last 24 hours.
Total virus infections statewide now stand at 1,108,430, with 18,883 deaths since the pandemic began.
Shifting to Tier 1 is a welcome relief for local restaurant owners who have struggled to keep afloat during the pandemic.
DuPage and Kane comprise Region 8 of 11 state public health regions; Lake and McHenry are in Region 9. The two regions are seeing fewer virus infections and hospitalizations, which allowed the change.
To shift into Tier 1, regions need a positivity rate on COVID-19 tests of below 8% for three consecutive days, 20% or higher of ICU beds available for three consecutive days, and no sustained increase in COVID-19 hospital patients for seven out of 10 days.
Tier 1 allows restaurant service for 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, and tables must be 6 feet apart with no ordering or seating at the bar counter. Masks and social distancing are still required in Tier 1.
The move comes as the Illinois Department of Public Health reported eight new cases of the COVID-19 strain that originated in the United Kingdom and is more contagious.
The individuals diagnosed with the variant range in age from 12 to 63 years old and live in Chicago and suburban Cook County.
The variant has shown up elsewhere in the U.S. and "we anticipated its spread here in Illinois," IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike said Monday.
That brings the total cases of the U.K. virus strain in Illinois to nine.