COOK COUNTY, Ill. – Suburban Cook County is set to loosen COVID-19 restrictions beginning Friday. It’s part of a major push to get more restaurant workers vaccinated to allow communities to reopen. 

Running a restaurant during the pandemic hasn’t been easy, some owners say, but any step back to normalcy is a good one.

“I think it’s time for restaurants to be able to give back to their business,” said Michael Jones, a Firehouse customer. “Restaurants has such an impact on a local community, local employment and in taxes.” 

Jones looked back over the last year and remembered how hard it was for restaurants. It’s why he says he’s not taking for granted the opportunity to eat inside one of his favorite restaurants, Firehouse in Evanston. 

On Thursday, the Cook County Department of Public Health revised their Phase 4 reopening guidelines to kick off the next day. The news comes after 14 days of stable and/or declining hospitalizations and COVID-19 case counts and positivity rates in the county.

The eased mitigations include:  

Increased indoor restaurant capacity to 50 percent capacity or 100 individuals, whichever is smaller.  Outdoor social events, such as weddings, proms and potlucks increase to lesser of 50% capacity or 100 people.  Higher capacity for indoor and outdoor seated spectator events, theater and performing arts in large venues Festivals and general admission outdoor spectator events increase to 15 people per 1,000 square feet.  

The ease in restrictions is good news for Jones’ favorite restaurant and its owner.

“We are really excited,” says Firehouse owner Pat Fowler. “We, in the past year, feel we have gone above and beyond for the safety of our guests and customers. We are excited that restaurants like ours have done the work so that we can reopen into this phase.”

To aid the restaurant industry in their vaccine efforts, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced all six COVID mass vaccination sites would recognize Mondays as ‘Restaurant Worker Day.’

The goal is to get more individuals vaccinated.

“It’s imperative that we get all residents of Cook County who are eligible vaccinated against COVID-19,” Preckwinkle said. “We had to do our part to protect our family friends communities.”

Walk-ins are welcome at all Cook County Health mass vaccination sites. Individuals can still make appointments at vaccine.cookcountyil.gov or by calling 833-308-1988, Monday – Friday from 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.

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