CHICAGO (CBS) — Effective Friday, a mask mandate – not an advisory, but a mandate – will be back in effect in Chicago for all indoor spaces, including gyms, stores, and restaurants.
As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported Tuesday night, some businesses believe this step backward could be a big blow.
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The new indoor mask mandate will go into effect on Friday for anyone age 2 or older, regardless of their vaccination status, and covers all businesses in Chicago; including bars and restaurants, gyms, common areas of condos and multi-residential buildings, and private clubs.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady announced the new mask mandate Tuesday afternoon, and said the city doesn’t expect any additional COVID-19 restrictions, such as capacity limits or orders for bars, restaurants, gyms and other businesses to require indoor customers to show proof of vaccination.
“We’re hopeful that having the masks in place for everybody will get us through delta, while we keep working on getting folks vaccinated, and with doing that our goal is to remain open, but careful,” she said.
Customers will be allowed to remove masks at restaurants, bars, and other eating establishments while they are eating or drinking.
The return the return of the indoor mask mandate comes as Chicago has surpassed an average of 400 new cases of COVID-19 per day, largely among the unvaccinated, and caused mostly by the more contagious delta variant.
For restaurants in particular, none of this was the news those in the business wanted to hear.
“We’re still struggling with everything imaginable,” said Steve Hartenstein. “The mask mandate is going to influence some people away from us, if you will.”
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Hartenstein, of Phil Stefani Signature Restaurants, helps run seven Chicago restaurants – including the Broken English Taco Pub at 75 E. Lake St. He said the restaurants that survived the shutdown are still trying to stay afloat now.
“It’s certainly better than the alternative of vaccine cards and all that, but it puts us in a position to police again,” Hartenstein said.
He said the restaurants will have to police patrons with far less staff than pre-pandemic times.
In announcing the renewed mandate, Arwady said, “I don’t expect that this will be an indefinite, forever mask requirement.”
But while Dr. Arwady said the indoor mask mandate will not be permanent, she said it will not be lifted until daily COVID cases dip below 200 for a week or two.
“It doesn’t help us, but we’re going to deal with it,” Hartenstein said.
But all bets are off, Hartenstein said, if the city reinstates capacity limits.
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“I’m not even going to go there, because it would be the kiss of death for our industry,” he said.