Chicago updates capacity limits due to uptick in COVID-19 cases

Chicago health officials are increasing capacity limits at certain outdoor establishments to allow for safe activities due to increases in COVID-19 health metrics in the city.

The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) announced the updated COVID-19 regulations on Thursday.

The city noted that while most indoor regulations will remain in place, outdoor capacity limits can increase.

The updated regulations include strict social distancing and face covering requirements. Health officials say this will help ensure that the recent rise in health metrics does not lead to a third surge of the virus in Chicago.

"Over the last few weeks we have seen increases across our metrics, and I am concerned," said CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D. "Throughout the pandemic we have promoted caution as we reopen, and unfortunately this pandemic is clearly not over yet."

Chicago’s COVID-19 health metrics have begun to rise following three months of steady decline or stability, health officials say.

In order for Chicago to move forward in the reopening plan, CDPH has set four metrics that the city must meet.

Three of those four metrics have increased in the last week.

New daily COVID-19 cases have risen into the "High-Risk" level due to 5+ consecutive days of at least a 10% increase. Emergency Department visits for COVID-like illness have also increased by 38% in the last week.

The city released the following statistics on the increase in COVID-19 metrics:

  • COVID cases diagnosed per day: currently averaging 365, in the "HighRisk" level and up 23% in the last week
  • COVID test positivity: currently averaging 3.4%, in the "Lower-Risk" level and up 18% in the last week
  • Emergency Department visits for COVID-like illness: currently averaging 73 per day, in the "Moderate-Risk" level and up 38% in the last week
  • ICU beds occupied by COVID patients: currently averaging 73, in the "Lower-Risk" level and up 3% in the last week

CDPH says it will evaluate the metrics again in one week to determine if and how Chicago could loosen regulations and move to a "Bridge to
Phase 5."

"Our businesses have consistently stepped up throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and the last thing we want is to have to close back down," said BACP Commissioner Rosa Escareño. "Today’s update will help ensure that we continue to move cautiously and carefully forward while avoiding any large spikes in the virus."

Indoor capacity at bars, restaurants, social events, performance venues, seated spectator events, places of worship and other establishments will remain limited to the lesser of 50% capacity or 50 people per room or floor.

In each setting, six feet of physical distance must be maintained between different parties, meaning that facilities may need to operate at a lower capacity to achieve six feet between all parties.

Indoor fitness class capacity will now increase to the lesser of 50% or 50 people per room, provided that six feet of social distancing can be maintained between patrons.

Face coverings must all be worn at all times.

CDPH says since the virus is less likely to spread in outdoor settings, outdoor capacity limits can increase.

The following outdoor capacity changes will go into effect immediately:

  • Bars and Restaurants: Maximum outdoor table size can increase to ten people, with tables set up so that patrons are six feet from patrons at other tables
  • Social Events (e.g. weddings, potlucks and other community events): Total outdoor capacity can increase to the lesser of 50% or 100 people
  • Performance Venues, Theaters and Seated Spectator Events: Outdoor venues with capacity greater than or equal to 200 can operate at 25% capacity. Smaller venues can operate at no more than 50% capacity or 50 people.
  • Outdoor Recreation: Maximum groups of 50; multiple groups permitted
  • Places of Worship: No outdoor capacity limit provided that six feet of social distancing is maintained between parties
  • Health and Fitness Centers: Outdoor classes can increase to 100 people

Within all of these settings, six feet of social distancing must be maintained between parties, and face coverings can only be removed in limited circumstances.

The city says all patrons will continue to count towards capacity limits, even if they are fully vaccinated or have a recent negative test.

The full COVID-19 regulations can be found at