CHICAGO — Illinois is expected to enter phase five of its reopening Friday, lifting all pandemic capacity restrictions on businesses for the first time in roughly 18 months.
But not all COVID-19 health and safety measures are disappearing. Businesses are still advised to allow for social distancing and can require additional precautions.
From salad bars to grocery store samples to museum reservation systems, here’s what to expect:
Illinois still recommends unvaccinated people wear masks, and they’re required in some places regardless of vaccination status, including on Metra and CTA and in health care settings, long-term care facilities, group homes and correctional facilities.
Businesses can still require masks, though several large chains already let vaccinated customers go maskless. Some, including beauty retailer Sephora, still ask employees to wear masks.
Retailers that have been asking everyone to mask up may loosen that rule in phase five, including Penelope’s and Gemini, clothing stores in Chicago’s Ukranian Village neighborhood.
The stores will continue to offer private shopping appointments outside regular hours and curbside pickup for people who aren’t ready to shop in person, said Joe Lauer, who co-owns both stores with his wife, Jena Frey.
“The rest of us can go about our lives a little more like normal,” he said.
The Lincoln Park Zoo and Brookfield Zoo require masks in at least some indoor settings. At Lincoln Park Zoo, visitors are asked to wear masks inside buildings with open air habitats to protect the health of the animals, spokeswoman Jillian Braun said.
Office building owners are still finalizing rule changes.
The Aon Center has required that masks be worn in common areas. That will change for vaccinated workers as of Monday, general manager Matt Amato said.
It will be an honor system, he said. “I don’t think you’re going to see buildings checking vaccination cards,” Amato said.
Shoppers still can’t try on clothes at T.J. Maxx stores in Illinois, but many other retailers have reopened them, including Target, Kohl’s and Primark.
Penelope’s fitting rooms have been open for awhile but the retailer only recently stopped quarantining clothes in the backroom before putting them back on shelves, Lauer said.
Some restaurants that used QR codes and digital menus to avoid having people share menus said paper copies are available for customers who prefer the analog option.
Both Giordano’s and Tanta, in River North, say the digital versions will stay. Tanta added photos of dishes to its QR code menu and found they helped customers who weren’t familiar with its Peruvian cuisine.
“It makes for a smoother experience and they can really envision what the dishes are,” said general manager Katie Mikhailova.
Grocery stores are bringing back self-service areas like hot bars and salad bars and resuming store events and in-store dining.
Jewel-Osco is reopening hot bars, wing bars and self-serve bakery areas. Seating areas are also open in stores that have full-service bars or Starbucks stores.
Mariano’s has reopened hot bars and soup bars and will return them to self-service in the city, where employees had been dishing out food, said spokeswoman Amanda Puck. Customers who buy prepared foods, like a meal from the new mac and cheese bar at the Lakeview East location, can eat at the store. Events like Friday night live music performances are also returning.
Whole Foods says some stores have reopened self-serve options and seating areas where local regulations allow it.
Testing cosmetics is still off-limits at Ulta Beauty, though customers can try out fragrances. Sephora allows testing where local regulations permit it, though it asks customers to use disposable applicators and sanitize their hands before and after handling a tester.
Food samples are coming back at stores like Sam’s Club and Mariano’s. Sam’s Club brought back its sampling program June 1 and plans to test new ways of letting customers try samples, such as bringing them to shoppers at checkout or when they pick up a curbside order.
Costco is also starting to bring back samples and reopen indoor food court seating, with limited capacity, this month.
Fans of takeout still don’t have to meet the person delivering their food face-to-face unless they want to.
Contact-free delivery remains the default option at Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats. At Giordano’s, customers must choose the no-contact option when ordering.
The Lincoln Park Zoo and Brookfield Zoo will no longer require people to reserve a time to visit. Brookfield Zoo still recommends purchasing tickets in advance to avoid lines at the gate and may bring the timed reservation system back to help manage traffic during popular events like Holiday Magic.
Other attractions that began requiring reservations during the pandemic say they plan to keep the systems, at least temporarily, including the Morton Arboretum, Field Museum and Skydeck Chicago. Reservations are not mandatory at Skydeck Chicago or the Field Museum, but both recommend them if visitors want to make sure they will be able to enter.
Several retail stores said they plan to keep the plastic shields put up between customers and employees and hand sanitizer stations at least temporarily.
Social distancing markers, which some customers have already begun ignoring, will disappear from Jewel-Osco’s floors, though the grocery stores will keep their Plexiglas sneeze guards.
In the city, the number of people allowed at one time on office building elevators had been capped at four, and more recently it increased to six — or 50% of allowable occupancy by weight.
The Aon Center will do away with elevator capacity limits, as well as distancing requirements in areas such as elevator lobbies.
“I think the fear of riding in elevators has subsided, especially due to vaccinations,” Amato said.
Some policy changes could vary by building, said Derrick Johnson, a senior vice president at Zeller Realty Group and president of the board of directors for BOMA/Chicago, an association of 240 downtown buildings.
At the historic Wrigley Building, elevators are cramped. In the 65-story tower at 311 S. Wacker Drive, elevators are among the most spacious in the city. “We’re still working through that,” Johnson said.
Just because businesses can operate at full capacity doesn’t mean all will welcome crowds right away.
Target said it continues to follow capacity limits that align with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s social distancing guidelines but its stores are large enough that those limits generally haven’t been an issue.
Mesa Urbana, a restaurant in the Old Town Triangle neighborhood, will ease into expanding capacity by adding a few tables and seating larger groups together, said co-owner Moe Taleb. Previously, he turned down big groups like corporate parties and weddings.
The restaurant will still warn customers their visit may be limited to 90 minutes in case space becomes an issue, though it hasn’t needed to enforce that limit so far, Taleb said
Ryan Ori and Sarah Freishtat contributed.