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Pritzker orders tougher restrictions for Chicago starting Friday. Lightfoot says she’ll try to change his mind.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday clashed over his order for tighter restrictions that would prohibit indoor dining and bar service in Chicago, with the governor saying they’re needed to help stop the coronavirus spread and the mayor indicating she’ll try to change his mind.

Hours after Pritzker announced the rollback in Chicago starting Friday, citing increases in the city’s positivity rate and in hospital admissions for people with COVID-19 symptoms, Lightfoot in a televised interview said she’s trying to convince him not to go through with his order, citing concerns about the economy.

“Our restaurant industry, our bars, our gyms, indoor spaces, if the governor’s order goes into effect, it’s really effectively shutting down a significant portion of our economy at a time when those same businesses are really hanging on by a thread, so we’re going to continue our engagement with the governor and his team,” Lightfoot said on PBS.

“But it’s not looking good, and if we can’t convince him that some other metrics should apply, then the shutdown unfortunately is going to take effect starting Friday by state order," she said.

The mayor did not attend Pritzker’s news conference and did not release a statement about the announcement for a couple of hours. Hinting at behind-the-scenes drama, Lightfoot’s statement began, “Communication is the key to navigating through this crisis.”

Pritzker’s office acknowledged he had not spoken to the mayor before issuing his order.

“The governor and mayor were supposed to speak on Monday, but the mayor didn’t call the governor," the governor’s office said in a statement. "Staff were briefed on the metrics triggering mitigations.”

Pritzker’s order for the city puts it under the same rules as a broad stretch of suburbs and downstate regions amid a statewide coronavirus resurgence.

The city is “averaging more than twice as many COVID-related hospital admissions per day as it was a month ago, with a positivity rate that has almost doubled since the beginning of October,” Pritzker said Tuesday.

“For a time, late in the summer, Chicago seemed to have this more under control than other regions of Illinois,” Pritzker said. “But that’s no longer the case.”

As in other regions, the rollback in Chicago was met with dismay by restaurateurs already hard-hit by the pandemic.

“All I can say is that there are a lot of tears in this place,” said Rick Bayless, whose restaurant group includes Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and Bar Sótano.

“Everybody on our team is ready to throw in the towel,” Bayless said. “We didn’t know if we could make it to the end of the year anyway, and now this will just about cinch it.”

The city will become the seventh of 11 regions in the state to come under the stricter, state-imposed rules, but is only the second to trigger the scaled-back reopening by reaching the combined hospital admissions and positivity rate thresholds. The first was suburban Cook County, which goes under the tighter restrictions Wednesday.

“The situation here in all of Cook County, city and suburbs alike, is bad, and it’s getting worse," Pritzker said at his daily coronavirus briefing, held Tuesday in suburban Hazel Crest.

Before taking to PBS to begin making her case against Pritzker’s order, Lightfoot issued a statement that said, "the Governor and I are aligned that we need residents to mask-up and follow the City and State’s health guidance in order to reverse these recent troubling trends, but we must remain in lock step when it comes to the rollout of new restrictions.”

In her TV interview, the mayor said, “we’ve got to be very surgical in the way that we impose these new restrictions."

“The truth is, where we’re seeing the greatest challenges is in people’s homes, in social settings that are not public,” she said. “That’s harder to regulate, to be sure, but that’s at least in Chicago where we’re seeing the challenges.”

It doesn’t sound like the governor’s office is hearing appeals, however.

“Unfortunately, the virus doesn’t make exceptions, and it would be ill-advised to make exceptions to the rules we put in place as the best mitigations to stop the spread,” Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said in a statement.

The dispute over the upcoming restrictions marks Lightfoot’s most direct confrontation with her fellow Democrat Pritzker during the pandemic. In mid-March, Pritzker canceled classes statewide just hours after Lightfoot said she had no plans to do so at Chicago Public Schools.

The tougher rules, which take effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, will deal another blow to restaurants and bars that struggled to make up for losses from the spring, when the entire state was living under a stay-at-home order, the most restrictive measure Pritzker’s administration has put in place during the pandemic so far.

“When (coronavirus restrictions) first happened, we were (saying), ‘Yeah, we’ll get through this,’” Bayless said. “I can say our team is feeling pretty hopeless right now. We’d hit break-even for about four weeks in a row, and now we’ll be back in the red, which we don’t have the wherewithal for.”

Chicago, like many large cities across the country, was hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic in the spring. The fall surge Illinois is experiencing is targeting a wider area of the state: By the end of this week, stricter rules will be in place for Illinois’ most densely populated neighborhoods, as well as some of its most rural areas downstate, after those regions hit positivity rate thresholds that triggered tougher rules.

Suburban counties including DuPage and Kane are already under the state’s stricter rules for businesses and gatherings, and Lake and McHenry counties may soon be joining the group given the latest metrics. Both recorded a rolling coronavirus positivity rate above 8% for the second straight day, state health officials reported Tuesday, putting them one day away from triggering the stricter rules.

The two counties had a combined test positivity rate of 8.4% as of Saturday, up from 8.1% a day earlier.

State health officials on Tuesday reported 4,000 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 382,985 since the start of the pandemic. There also were 46 additional fatalities reported Tuesday, bringing the state-reported death toll to 9,568 over the course of the pandemic.

The statewide rolling positivity rate was 6.4% statewide as of Monday, up from 5.5% a week earlier and 4.5% two weeks earlier.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike on Tuesday called the rate of increase “very significant.”

“People want to poke holes in stats. You can’t deny people in the hospital, you can’t deny people who have died with it,” Ezike said.

The city, which is its own region in Pritzker’s reopening plan, had a 7.8% test positivity rate as of Oct. 24, the most recent data the Illinois Department of Public Health has released, up from 6.7% a week earlier.

The state was reporting 43 new hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illnesses in Chicago on Oct. 24, up from 30 on Oct. 17.

In order to return to phase four rules under Pritzker’s plan and for the state to sanction indoor dining, bar service and crowd limits of up to 50 again, the city would need to reach a trio of thresholds.

The city must log, for a three-day period, an average positivity rate of 6.5% or lower, coupled with a decrease in hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illness. In addition, there must be adequate levels of available hospital and intensive care beds.

But if the city’s average positivity rate and hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illness continue to increase for seven out of 10 days, the state could impose more stringent rules.

The city joined the rest of the state in entering phase four of Pritzker’s reopening plan in late June, when restrictions on a wide array of activities, businesses and gatherings were loosened more than they had been since March. It was then that bars and indoor dining were permitted and limits on gathering sizes rose to 50.

Last week, Lightfoot reinstated a ban on indoor service at traditional taverns and brewery taprooms without food licenses, and asked residents to cap any social gatherings at six people.

She also warned the city is on a path for much tougher restrictions heading into the holiday season if the virus doesn’t get under control.

Late last month, Lightfoot cited a decrease in COVID-19 cases as she allowed bars that don’t serve food to reopen for indoor drinking. She also eased rules on restaurants, gyms and other retailers, allowing them to increase capacity. The changes were Lightfoot’s attempt to ease the financial burden on Chicago businesses by lifting frequently criticized restrictions.

But they also came as the number of new COVID-19 cases per day was hovering around 300, well above the 200-case threshold the mayor set months ago as a goal before moderating restrictions.

Chicago now is averaging nearly 800 new cases a day, Arwady said. To put it into perspective, she said 400 was a level of concern and 200 was the level the city wanted to stay under.

Also Tuesday, the city of Chicago added Florida to its travel quarantine order, and officials warned that Michigan could be added next week as coronavirus cases continue to rise, Arwady said.

That makes 31 states, as well as Puerto Rico, on the city’s list of places residents can’t travel to without quarantining.

The Tribune’s Phil Vettel contributed.

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