A Slow Opening Is Better Than No Opening

Chicago’s Recovery from COVID-19

With our second pandemic summer now behind us, let’s talk about the reopening of public places around the city. Last year’s strict lockdown was followed by several community rules and mandates.We have all become used to being thoughtful around others in public places. Back in January 2021, when the first wave of restaurants started re-opening, people were required to wear masks inside and outside venues to control the spread of the virus. Then in May, those who had been vaccinated were permitted to roam freely without a mask, but in some venues would have to present a proof of vaccination. Now, with the Delta variant on the rise, restrictions are coming back, and with the fear of growing cases, the City is squeezing us of our newly reinstated social freedoms in public. 

First, let’s focus on restaurants. All eateries have been forced to now adapt their practices to help minimize the spread of coronavirus, and there are many different changes that our city has had to adjust to. Restaurants are now required to ask that customers wear masks inside the building and anywhere one is not actively eating. All restaurants have reduced their maximum captivity to lower numbers to keep people distanced and ensure a safe environment. Some restaurants require proof of vaccination for indoor dining, and some don’t even have indoor seating areas open yet. These changes make the experience of dining different from what we’ve known.

Now, let’s pivot, and talk about our Chicago go-to tourist staples. Places like the Lincoln Park Zoo, or the Art Institute… destinations that you go to for the experience of it, to tick off the list. But how have these changed for Chicagoans since the reopening of our city’s attractions? At the Art Institute, the mask mandate is up and running no matter what your vaccination status is. That is coupled with distancing awareness that helps prevent contact spreading. Outdoor venues, such as the Lincoln Park Zoo, are not requiring masks outside, but are requiring them inside the animal buildings to ensure the safety of the animals and public. The Museum of Science and Industry is an indoor attraction and is also using a mask mandate regardless of visitor vaccination status. They strongly encourage social distancing, and are following state rules and regulations. This affects the experience of the public visiting these iconic Chicago staples, and makes it a different experience for our community. 

What about the pop-up exhibits? Well, the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit also has rules to help the safety of our community. It provides a strict mask mandate with social distancing bubbles that help prevent spread. Since it is an immersive exhibit, rules are set in place so that everyone can have an equally enjoyable experience while also being socially distanced with reduced captivity. Others, like The Art of Banksy, follow a firm social distancing rule that is enforced throughout the show. People must wear masks in the building like in other formal and established museum exhibits. Lollapalooza is another outdoor venue which almost 400,000 people attended. For this event to even be possible, people were required to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test before entering the festival. If someone was not vaccinated, they would have to wear a mask at all times. Lollapalooza also required masks inside buildings because of Chicago Public Health recommendations. Lollapalooza was unlike any other year? festival? with regard to vaccination card requirements, mask mandate — the experience was unique for each venue. 

Ultimately, Chicago businesses are following practices to ensure safety in the community. The mask mandate, social distancing regulations, and minimized capacity have been some of the ways venues have enforced experiences to protect people from coronavirus contraction and the spread of the variants that travel with them. Unfortunately, this does have to cancel the ability to experience visiting Chicago staples. Our new normal that we have had to adapt to will change some of the memories we thought we’d have. Despite that, we have triumphantly adapted to ways we can still enjoy our fair city in a safe and conscientious way.