'This summer is going to be very different': Pritzker, Lightfoot expect full reopen this summer
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state is on a "timeline" to reopen by the July 4 target set by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
The two were together Tuesday for a news conference announcing the return of the Chicago Auto Show in mid-July that will be shorter, smaller and held both inside and out as efforts to continue mitigating the spread of COVID-19 will still be in place.
"This is a huge step away from the challenges of the pandemic and toward normalcy," Pritzker said.
Pritzker added that his administration and state health officials are watching COVID-19 infection and hospitalization metrics "like a hawk" but that he remains "optimistic" that the numbers are moving in the right direction.
Infection figures and hospitalizations have declined as more people get vaccinated against the respiratory disease. However, demand for the vaccine has waned, and some worry that could jeopardize the ability to achieve herd immunity.
That's not stopping reopening plans just yet, though.
"We feel very confident about what the summer is going to look like, and it will be more like 2019 than 2020," said Lightfoot, saying she expects the city to be "fully open" by July 4. "This summer is going to be very different, very festive."
Many other events and activities that were canceled or restricted last summer will be allowed to take place this year, officials announced at the news conference today at McCormick Place in Chicago.
Most still will require masks.
Lightfoot said the city's businesses would see a full reopening with no capacity limits, but masks are expected to be something we see as a society for a while.
The governor, mayor and public health officials urged unvaccinated individuals to get immunized to prevent a resurgence and reduce the opportunities for new variants of the virus that might not respond to current vaccines. Variants arise when viruses mutate in infected people,
"The trends are encouraging, but we must be cautious as we move forward," said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. "As more venues reopen, it is critical that we increase the number of people who are vaccinated. Immunity is how we stop transmission of this virus, but we need greater community immunity, and that requires as many of us as possible getting vaccinated as soon as possible."