As Chicago’s COVID-19 positivity rate reaches 14.5 percent late this week, city and state officials are warning residents to cancel plans for Thanksgiving travel and large gatherings. The late November meal is among the U.S.’s most cherished food holidays, and restaurants are presenting menus tweaked for pandemic restrictions with smaller birds, portioned dinners, and plenty of sides.
Some are advocating to opt out of Thanksgiving thanks to 2020’s bizarre circumstances. In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday issued a plea for holiday restraint in a press conference, saying that failure to stem the virus’ spread could result in the deaths of at least 1,000 more Chicago residents by the year’s end. The city has also limited gatherings like meetings and social events to 10 people, both inside and outside.
“You must cancel the normal Thanksgiving plans, particularly if they include guests that do not live in your immediate household,” she said.
Lightfoot also announced a stay-at-home advisory — not a mandate — in Chicago, slated to begin Monday. She’s asking residents to sequester themselves for the most part over the next 30 days. Locals are encouraged to leave home only for work, school, medical care, and grocery shopping or restaurant carryout, and should always wear a mask. She did not mention outdoor dining, possibly due to an inevitable drop in temperatures, but added that bars and restaurants still remain closed for indoor service. Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady urged customers to order takeout and to tip well to help restaurants.
- Stay home unless for essential reasons— Mayor Lori Lightfoot (@chicagosmayor) November 12, 2020
- Stop having guests over—including family members you do not live with
- Avoid non-essential travel
- Cancel traditional Thanksgiving plans
Though the city has no plans to enforce the advisory, Lightfoot says she hopes the ominous data wakes Chicagoans up to a stark reality: “If the possibility of 1,000 more people dying in the city in the next seven weeks doesn’t grab you by the throat as it did me when I started seeing that modeling, then there’s little we’re going to do to move you,” she said Thursday.
The policy echoes a recommendation made by state officials earlier this week as coronavirus deaths across Illinois have skyrocketed. Hospitalizations reached a record high on Thursday, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Both Lightfoot and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker have voiced exasperation with local elected officials, business owners, and others around the state who refuse to abide by pandemic regulations.
Pritzker wondered aloud what it would take for detractors to be part of the solution in a press conference Thursday, adding that he doesn’t want to issue another stay-at-home order, as he did in the spring, but “right now that seems where we are headed.”
And yet, a surge in cases, positivity rates, hospitalizations, and deaths has not quelled calls for Chicago to reinstate indoor dining. The Illinois Restaurant Association continues to push its indoor dining campaign, #fightforillinoisrestaurants, on social media; the Fulton Market Association, a neighborhood business group, has issued a list of demands like more grant money from the city and canceling rent for the rest of the year — an ask that’s likely beyond the city’s jurisdiction, according to the Tribune. A study out of Stanford University released Tuesday found that “restaurants were by far the riskiest places” for new infections.
Lightfoot also stressed there would be a crackdown on operators who violate safety rules while calling out employers who pressure workers to show up to work in risky conditions. She advised workers to anonymously report their employers to 311, saying “we’ll make sure your rights are enforced.”
Hospitality workers and owners in states with fewer pandemic regulations are begging elected officials to step in. In Wisconsin, ownership at popular new American restaurant Odd Duck explicitly requests a safer-at-home order and statewide masking in a Facebook post:
“I AM PLEADING WITH OUR STATE LEGISLATURE TO MEET AND ACT NOW TO HELP US CONTROL THIS VIRUS COMPREHENSIVELY IN WISCONSIN,” the post reads. “We need statewide masking, a safer-at-home order, increased testing & contact tracing, expanded unemployment & relief for non-essential businesses. We have needed this and have been asking for it for nine months now. HELP US.”
In other news...
— Chicago restaurant workers who are displaced during the pandemic can pick up grocery packages and other meal items from noon to 2 p.m. (or while supplies last) on Friday at Ina Mae Packaged Goods, chef Brian Jupiter’s New Orleans-inspired Wicker Park restaurant, according to the Tribune. Items were donated by Sysco. Those who want to pick up a package must bring identification and proof of recent restaurant work, like a paystub. The restaurant is located at 1415 N. Wood Street. In related news, Jupiter’s Noble Square restaurant, Frontier, has a new dinner menu.
— Goose Island Beer Co. announced it will donate proceeds from sales of a special edition beer to the Chicago Restaurant Workers Relief Fund. Goose has created a special label for its 312 cans and they’ll release the brew later in November at its taproom and brewpub, as well as at convenience stores across the city, according to a news release. The label was created by local artist Cooper Foszcz.
— Kinzie Chop House has new ownership, according to a news release. When indoor dining resumes in Chicago, customers will find a remodeled space and new menu inside the downtown steakhouse. In the interim, they’ve unveiled a new delivery- and takeout-only menu under the name Kinzie Cucina Italiana. Wife-and-husband team Nicole Flevaris and Andreas Tsakonas are the new owners.
— Let’s Make Dumplings, a new illustrated cookbook from chef Hugh Amano and comics artist Sarah Becan, is now available for preorder from Penguin Random House. It’s slated for publication in June 2021. Amano and Becan’s latest work aims to teach home cooks about savory and sweet Asian dumplings with the eye-catching graphic novel approach they honed in previous collaborations like Let’s Make Ramen and the Adventures of Fat Rice.