Pritzker and Lightfoot spar over Chicago’s new indoor dining restrictions

Governor says new regulations will help slow rising Covid cases, but mayor says it will devastate the economy

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (Getty, iStock)
Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (Getty, iStock)

Soon after Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he is imposing new restrictions on indoor dining in Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot began trying to change his mind.

Pritzker said he would prohibit indoor dining and bar service in Chicago — effective Friday — to combat rising coronavirus cases, according to the Chicago Tribune. Lightfoot is seeking to limit the restrictions, over concerns about the fragile state of the economy.

The governor said his goal is to prevent Chicago from facing a second wave of Covid-19 cases.

Chicago 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 in a statement, according to the Tribune.

Lightfoot said these restrictions would have a severe impact on Chicago’s economy.

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“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,” Lightfoot said in a television interview with PBS News Hour.

The differing positions from the two powerful elected officials also highlights tension between the governor and the mayor’s offices during the pandemic.

Pritzker’s office said he had not spoken to the mayor before issuing his order, according to the Tribune. Their relationship is a less volatile version of the very public feud that has been raging between New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. That has also played out during the pandemic, but predates it.

Last month, Lightfoot allowed bars that don’t serve food to reopen for indoor drinking. She also reduced restrictions on restaurants, gyms and other retailers, according to the Tribune.

At the time, Chicago was averaging about 300 cases a day, but the city is now averaging nearly 800 new cases a day. There are now 31 states — and Puerto Rico — that Chicagoans who visit must self-quarantine when they return. [Tribune] — Keith Larsen