by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producerBy CBS 2 Chicago Staff

CHICAGO (CBS) — As new coronavirus cases in Chicago continue to decline, the city is easing restrictions on indoor dining for the second time in less than a week, increasing capacity limits for restaurants and bars.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office said Tuesday morning bars and restaurants will be allowed to increase indoor capacity to 40% of normal or 50 people per room, whichever is less, effective immediately.

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The announcement comes just five days after the city allowed indoor service at bars and restaurants to expand to 25% of normal capacity, or a maximum of 50 people per room, whichever is less.

The mayor’s office said the latest expansion of indoor dining is part of the roadmap the city laid out last week to gradually increase capacity limits for restaurants and bars. The city has now averaged fewer than 400 new COVID-19 cases per day for three days, allowing the move to 40% capacity. If the city keeps its new case count below 400 per day — as well as a test positivity rate of 6.5% or below, 79 or fewer emergency room visits for COVID-19, and fewer than 300 ICU beds occupied by COVID patients — for 14 days, capacity limits could be increased to 50% as soon as Feb. 28.

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“In recent days, we have made incredible progress in the ongoing effort to save lives and defeat this deadly virus,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “I am thrilled that we have made enough headway to cautiously ease more regulations, but I once again want to remind all our businesses and residents that we are not out of the woods yet. Only by committing to what we know works will we be able to continue moving forward carefully and responsibly.”

The mayor’s office said, while indoor dining capacity is expanding, other previous restrictions on restaurants and bars remain in place:

  • Food must be available at all times in order to offer indoor service. This means that bars, taverns or breweries without a food license can reopen indoors as long as they partner with a food establishment so that food is available to patrons at all times (e.g., making menus available and allowing delivery, allowing patrons to order from third-party delivery services).
  • A maximum of six customers per table indoors and outdoors.
  • Patrons can sit at bars, with six feet of social distancing between parties.
  • Face coverings must be worn at all times, except when patrons are seated and actively eating or drinking.
  • Patrons must be seated whenever they are eating or drinking.
  • Tables must be spaced at least six feet apart.
  • Establishments must close for on-site service at midnight.
  • The sale of alcohol must end at 11:00pm, including alcohol sold for on-site consumption, delivery or carry out.

Under the roadmap announced last week, the following metrics are being used to determine the process for continuing to ease COVID-19 regulations:

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  • COVID cases diagnosed per day: currently averaging 344, in the “Moderate-Risk” level
  • COVID test positivity: currently averaging 3.6%, in the “Low-Risk” level
  • Emergency Departments visits for COVID-like illness: currently averaging 62 per day, in the “Moderate-Risk” level
  • ICU beds occupied by COVID patients: currently averaging 117, in the “Moderate-Risk” level

You can track the city’s progress on the reopening metrics at chi.gov/coviddash, and updated COVID-19 regulations can be found at chicago.gov/reopening.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff