CHICAGO The sounds of laughter and crowds returned in full force to Chicago on Friday as Illinois has entered Phase 5 in the state’s COVID-19 recovery plan, thanks to a high vaccination rate and consistent decline in cases and hospitalizations.

“I’m pretty happy about it. It’s good to be able to see everybody,” visitor Khloe Nussbaum said.

All 32,000 creatures at Shedd Aquarium joined a jubilant staff in welcoming people back into museums.

“It feels like New Year’s Eve for the staff. We are just so incredibly joyful to welcome people back in to see the animals,” employee Andrea Rodgers said.

Many are planning to take advantage of tonight’s 9 p.m. closing time at Shedd Aquarium, with families spending a long day rejoicing in the shady picnic area.

The reopening accompanied a return to full capacity at the Friendly Confines, with a capacity crowd in the stands for an 8-5 Cubs win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

A packed Wrigley Field, lively museums and large crowds are all encouraging signs of a society returning to normalcy, as the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate has dropped to just one percent.


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