Life in Illinois One Year into Covid

Molly Franklin

Associate Editor

Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2022

Covid and its effect on daily life

We have now been living in a Covid world for over a year, and Illinois has had many ups and downs in all aspects of life since Covid shut down the world as we knew it. Dining and schooling have been majorly affected by Covid. Over the past year, there has been a ban on indoor dining for two extended periods: first from mid-March 2020 through the end of May 2020 and again from late October 2020 through the end of January 2021. Schools, with guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) have been working hard to navigate school guidelines and reopening’s as well as virtual learning. The world is a very different place it was a year ago, and it is clear that life will not return back to “pre-covid life” in fall 2021 even with the three different Covid vaccinations being offered.

The dining restrictions

On January 23, 2021 the Illinois Department of Public Health gave Chicago and the surrounding suburbs the thumbs up to begin indoor dining again after being shut-down in later October, however indoor dining did not return without a multitude of restrictions. While outdoor dining was allowed to continue with six-person table limits all through winter for those restaurants that were able to adapt and provide some sort of “outdoor” dining, indoor dining was not allowed in November, December, or most of January. When indoor dining returned on January 23, 2021 it  was limited to four person tables and restaurants were capped at 25 percent capacity and 25 people per room. Servers and patrons, whether dining indoor or outdoor, have been required to wear masks, except while customers are eating and drinking at their tables, but anytime customers are interacting with a server, they must put their masks back on. Bars who do not serve food have not been allowed to operate and reopen, unless they partner with another restaurant, catering service, or food truck in order to comply with the rules of having to offer food.

In early February, just two weeks after indoor dining re-opened, Chicago increased the capacity from 25 people to 50 people dining indoors and again two weeks later increased the percentage of the restaurant from 25 percent to 40 percent full. On March 2, 2021 the city of Chicago has once again increased the amount of people allowed inside a restaurant. Today, Chicago restaurants are allowed to operate at 50% capacity indoors and may seat tables of six inside however the 50 people per a room limit has not been changed. As for outdoor dining, on March 25, 2021 the city of Chicago announced that restaurants and bars could now seat parties of ten people for outdoor dining. While these tables still need to be spaced six feet apart from other tables, it is the first time since July 2020 that a party that big can dine together. Things are looking hopeful for the summer for Chicago, as 2 million residents of Illinois have been vaccinated.

Illinois school’s mitigation strategies

While the ISBE has not ordered all schools to reopen, they have issued additional guidance for those schools that do offer in person learning. The ISBE laid out five essential mitigation strategies including: requiring the universal and correct use of face masks, requiring social distancing to be observed as much as possible, contract tracing and isolation of those who have been in contact with Covid, an increase in schoolwide cleaning and disinfection, and promotion and adherence to handwashing etiquette. They have also recommended that 3 to 6 feet needs to be between all students and that all staff should be fully vaccinated. No matter if vaccinated or not, all students and teachers should be required to keep their face masks on during time at school.

Restaurants and schools are just two areas of life that have been turned upside down by Covid. Many other industries have been hurt by this pandemic, and have been facing new laws that they must comply with. Even with the fast vaccination rate, it is clear that Covid is not over and that we must work together to get through this.