Mayor Lori Lightfoot uses exciting initiatives and special perks to celebrate Chicago's reopening as the city reaches Phase 5.
Last Friday, Chicago IL was the first large city in the county to fully reopen since the COVID lockdown began. While it has been a rocky road with some institutions allowed certain types of liberties and some privileges being restored only to be taken away again when statistics deteriorated, the longed-for Phase 5 when most things would begin going back to normal has finally arrived for Illinois and Chicago.
No one seems happier about Illinois entering phase five than the Chicago Mayor who has proclaimed Chicago officially “open”. After 15 months of sacrifice and restrictions, Mayor Lori Lightfoot celebrated Friday’s reopening of the Chicago and Illinois at a pep rally of sorts outside Gibson’s Italia, a riverfront restaurant and one of the most picturesque places in Chicago.
Lightfoot didn’t hesitate to congratulate the people of Chicago and urge them the get back into life. “You masked up. You got vaxxed up. And now, it’s time for you to get up, get out of the house this summer and fully and safely enjoy the events of the best city on the planet, our beloved city. … There’s no better place to be in summertime than the city of Chicago.”
The day couldn’t have been more gorgeous as Lightfoot held a celebratory news conference, complete with a grab bag of giveaways aimed at getting Chicagoans out of their home offices and away from their houses.
Phase 5 for Illinois and Current Conditions
The Illinois Department of Public Health reported Thursday that 68 percent of adults in Illinois have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 51 percent are now fully vaccinated. On Thursday they also reported that there had been only 366 new cases of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. That dropped the seven-day average number of cases to just 1 percent, which is the lowest since the state began reporting daily test results.
As of late Wednesday night, there were 764 people in Illinois hospitalized with the virus. Of those, 209 patients were in intensive care units, and 103 of those patients were on ventilators. That was the lowest number of hospital beds in use since the state began reporting the numbers as well. So while the virus hasn’t been eradicated, the numbers of cases continue to decrease both in and out of the hospitals.
During an interview last week, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said that even though the state was ready to enter the final reopening phase, he was not yet prepared to lift the disaster proclamation he first issued on March 9, 2020. This is the legal basis that has allowed many executive orders to be issued such as a ban on residential evictions and utility shutoffs.
Pritzker feels that he wants that backup to remain in place just in case the numbers start to tick upward again, and further assistance is needed by Illinois residents. He has also recommended that those who haven’t been vaccinated to continue wearing masks and for businesses to continue to practice social distancing.
Mayor Lightfoot Kicks off the Celebrations in Chicago
No one seems happier about Illinois entering phase five than the Chicago Mayor who has proclaimed Chicago officially “open”. After 15 months of sacrifice and restrictions, Mayor Lori Lightfoot celebrated Friday’s reopening of the Chicago and Illinois at a pep rally of sorts outside Gibson’s Italia, a riverfront restaurant and one of the most picturesque places in Chicago. The day couldn’t have been more gorgeous as Lightfoot held a celebratory news conference, complete with a grab bag of giveaways aimed at getting Chicagoans out of their home offices and away from their houses.
Some of the giveaways Lightfoot announced included twelve hundred free, one-day passes to Lollapalooza. Chicago's largest music festival will be held at full capacity from July 29 to Aug. 1 this year after the event was postponed in 2020 due the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the mayor, four vaccination sites in Chicago will transform into a "Lollapalooza experience," with DJs, custom Lollapalooza-branded giveaways and free passes for residents. Each site will offer passes to a different day of the festival:
- Kennnedy King College: Passes for Saturday, July 31
- Wilbur Wright College: Passes for Thursday, July 29
- Richard J. Daley College: Passes for Friday, July 30
- Malcom X College: Passes for Sunday, August 1
The passes can be picked up on July 10.
The mayor also revealed that hundreds of $250 gift cards which can be used at over 4,000 Chicago restaurants and retailers have been “hidden” at area businesses for residents to find each weekend through July 4th.
There has been a hip-hop version of the “Protect Chicago” music series created for vaccinated Chicagoans.
Lightfoot publicized earlier last week, that many Chicago museums would stay open late on Friday to encourage people to visit and celebrate the day. Some of the participating museums included some of Chicagoans favorites such as:
- The Field Museum
- The Shedd Aquarium
- DuSable Museum
- National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture
They may do this again in future weeks with other museums participating.
The offers aren’t only geared towards Chicago’s adults. Mayor Lori Lightfoot and First Lady Amy Eshleman broadcast that they will launch a new campaign Monday the intention of which is to "excite and engage Chicago’s young people in all the city has to offer them as Chicago safely reopens."
The summer-long campaign is being called "My CHI, My Future - Rediscover Summer" and will offer over 200,000 summer opportunities and events for city youth.
"Youth and parents alike are encouraged to visit MyCHIMyFuture.org and follow @MyCHIMyFuture on Instagram for updates on how they can rediscover summer,” said Mayor Lightfoot.
The site includes resources, do it yourself projects like designing mobile apps, and podcasting, and themed challenges such as at home workouts and creating a backyard obstacle course. The mayor added that while this is beginning as a summer campaign it is intended to be a multi-year effort to help children and young adults re-enter school, society and the working world safely.
Using Familiar Activities to Ease Back into Life and Self Care While Doing So
According to what experts are recommending, Mayor Lightfoot is doing exactly the right thing as the city of Chicago reopens. Many people have grown used to or found comfort in their lockdown routine during the pandemic. As cities and states begin to reopen, many are reluctant to start to reintegrate into life in the world outside their homes.
For some this is anxiety while for others it may just be they’ve gotten used to doing most things from home with a few excursions outside those walls where they avoid others and are hidden behind masks. The new normal was people living in their own internal worlds.
To begin to counter this, experts recommend going slow at the beginning. The fact there have been phases for slowly reopening the state and country which has happened over many months has helped in this regard. Now that we can return to many activities, experts recommend starting with some that are already familiar to us.
Mayor Lightfoot has given us back our Cubs, and now Lallapaloosa with other well-known festivals likely to be held as well. This familiarity of summer fun that for many who have lived in Chicago for a long time has almost taken on the properties of a ritual, can help us reintegrate into the world at large.
For youth, experts recommend parents easing their children into more common play schedules this summer with structured activities during shorter play dates. The Mayor and First Lady’s website can help with this.
Experts also stress that as things start to reopen at a faster pace, no matter how excited we may feel at things at least somewhat going back to normal, it’s important to remember to engage in self-care. All of these activities that are being initiated by the mayor to get people out and about again are fabulous. But not all of us may be ready to throw ourselves into them again right away.
Lallapalooza and other Chicago festivals are a huge amount of fun. They are also crowded and filled with all kinds of stimulation we aren’t used to anymore. Experts say it’s better to dip your toe in first before jumping in the water. Even some people who weren’t socially anxious prior to the pandemic are finding that they are hesitant to go back to in person interactions and activities involving others.
And many of us may feel self-conscious about our social skills after being cut off from so many people for so long. Results from a survey from the American Psychological Association conducted in March indicated that almost half of Americans surveyed said they would feel uncomfortable returning to “in-person interaction” after the pandemic. Vaccination status had no effect on these findings.
While it can be a good idea to try to reacclimate yourself to the “normal” world by attending events and interacting with others, start small and keep the time you engage in these activities short at first. If you feel stressed during an activity, give yourself permission to opt out of the rest of it.
Medical and mental health experts agree, starting slow, having a plan for what you are comfortable doing, and engaging in familiar activities first are all ways to help you make this reopening a fun experience while minimizing stress.