Lori Lightfoot, the mayor of Chicago, on Thursday called for bars and restaurants to be open at limited capacity “as soon as possible,” and said she would speak to Illinois governor JB Pritzker about the matter. The second round of shutdowns began in October as COVID-19 spread in the city and state.
Per Block Club Chicago, Mayor Lightfoot said she is “very, very focused” on getting bars and restaurants open, and pointed out that they can be operated more safely for patrons than the underground parties that have proliferated in shutdown.
“If we have people and give them an outlet for entertainment … we have much more of an opportunity, in my view, to be able to regulate and control that environment,” Lightfoot said. “Let’s bring it out of the shadows. Let’s allow them to have some recreation in restaurants, in bars, where we can actually work with responsible owners and managers to regulate and protect people from COVID-19.”
There are going to be a lot of people who call Mayor Lightfoot a hypocrite here and say that she is one of the Democrats who wants to reopen now that Joe Biden will soon be replacing Donald Trump as president so there is a need to rebound the economy, not tank it. To be fair, while Mayor Lightfoot was a major proponent of the first round of lockdowns back in March, she did plead with Governor Pritzker not to shut down bars and restaurants before this latest round. As someone who lives in Chicago, I hope her pleas are more successful this time because last time they fell on deaf ears.
Nonetheless, it does feel like the tides are turning against lockdowns. Earlier this week, in his address to the state, New York governor Andrew Cuomo said that “we simply cannot stay closed” until everyone is vaccinated:
We simply cannot stay closed until the vaccine hits critical mass. The cost is too high. We will have nothing left to open. We must reopen the economy, but we must do it smartly and safely.#SOTS2021
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) January 11, 2021
That definitely represents a change in tone from someone who was ardently in favor of shutdowns previously. It should be noted that, according to data released in December, when Governor Cuomo closed indoor dining again, contact tracing showed that bars and restaurants in New York accounted for just 1.4 percent of cases. I am profoundly hopeful that the combination of vaccine rollout and sensible re-opening will lead us to a much happier world by this summer.