Indiana set to fully reopen state; Illinois remains stuck

Indiana set to fully reopen state; Illinois remains stuck

As Indiana gets back to normal, Illinois is locked into Phase 4 restrictions until further notice.

Indiana is set to fully reopen its economy and move into the final stage of their COVID-19 reopening plan on Sept. 26, nearly three months later than they hoped but well ahead of Illinois.

The state was originally expected to fully reopen on July 4. However, Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb held the state back at Stage 4.5 when cases rose around Independence Day. Indiana’s economy will now be operating with few restrictions while also following good public health measures.

Under Stage 5 of Holcomb’s plan, stores may reopen at full capacity. Restaurants, bars and nightclubs can reopen at full capacity, including with indoor service. Gyms and fitness centers can operate with basic COVID-19 precautions. Amusement parks can also reopen and large events, including fairs, sporting events and conventions can be held. Gatherings of over 500 people will require local health department approval, however.

Indiana public health officials still expect residents to follow the best practices to slow the spread of COVID-19. This includes being conscious of social distancing, especially for those older than 65 who are at a higher risk. Indiana is also keeping its mask mandate in place.

Indiana’s seven-day positivity rate for COVID-19 is 3.9% as of Sept. 24 and has remained steady or dropped since the end of July. The state still reports between 700 and 1,000 positive cases each day, but testing has also risen.

Illinois’ seven-day positivity rate is better than Indiana at 3.5%. Despite this, Gov. J.B. Pritzker continues to hold out on moving Illinois forward, saying a vaccine or effective treatment deployed effectively throughout the state or sustained lack of new cases is necessary before businesses can fully reopen and large gatherings are again permitted.

While Indiana forges ahead to balance economic recovery with virus prevention, many other states with better COVID-19 numbers have declined to reopen their economies further. Indoor dining in New York City has yet to reopen despite the state’s positivity rate holding under 1% for the past month.

With little hope for a full reopening in the coming months, Illinois business owners, especially restaurants, are facing a grim outlook this winter. Indoor dining capacity is restricted, with outdoor service highly encouraged. In a state famous for cold weather, far fewer people will choose to sit outside, despite creative efforts.

Pritzker has also refused to budge on his rules for youth sports. Illinois is the only state in the Midwest not playing high school football this fall. After student-athletes and parents staged protests in Chicago and Springfield on Sept. 19, Dr. Ngozi Ezike from the Illinois Department of Public Health released a statement saying, “We have been clear: There is a higher risk of infection transmission associated with high contact sports. That premise has not changed.”

Despite Illinois’ concerns about football, the NFL has not seen any positive cases among players in the first two weeks of the season. College football will also return to Illinois with strict COVID-19 testing measures in October when Northwestern University and the University of Illinois begin their seasons.

While most of the nation is moving ahead to balance normal life and public health safety measures, Illinois is being left behind. Businesses and students are left to pay for the governor’s decisions, some of which have allowed politics to overrule science.

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