Pritzker adds another phase before getting Illinois to full reopening

Pritzker adds another phase before getting Illinois to full reopening

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his public health chief decided their five-phase plan to lift COVID-19 restrictions needed another phase. The new phase calls for more places to open after more older residents are vaccinated, but with mask mandates.

Illinois has been working to fully reopen from COVID-19 restrictions, which Gov. J.B. Pritzker calls “Phase 5.” Now it turns out there is a “Phase 4.5.”

He and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike announced March 18 what they called a “bridge phase.”

“Rather than flipping a switch and saying we’re now in Phase 5, we’re looking at it more like a dial – dialing back some of the capacity restrictions that helped reduce transmission, and ultimately the number of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” Ezike said. “We don’t want to move too quickly and risk a significant reversal of our progress.”

One of the keys to reaching the bridge is that 70% of Illinoisans age 65 and up have received at least one dose of the vaccine. That number stood at 61% on March 19, with 19% of the total population having received at least one dose.

Illinois reported a 2.5% positivity average for COVID-19 tests from the past seven days. There were 2,380 new COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths reported March 19.

Here’s what you need to know about Pritzker’s revised opening plan:

  • The Bridge to Phase 5 will begin when 70% of Illinoisans 65 and older have received at least one dose of a vaccine. It will continue unless COVID-19 hospitalization and death rates statewide increase over a 28-day period
  • Social events can have up to 250 attendees indoors or 500 attendees outdoors
  • Conventions can host the lesser of 60% total capacity or 1,000 attendees
  • Seated spectator events can host 60% total capacity indoors and outdoors
  • Zoos and museums can host 60% of total capacity
  • Seated indoor dining remains limited to 10 people per party
  • Phase 5 will begin when 50% of Illinoisans 16 and older have been vaccinated or COVID-19 metrics decline over a 28-day period. That number was 19% on March 19.

Following the recommendation of health experts, Pritzker said the “bridge phase” will serve as a measured approach toward reopening Illinois. Meanwhile, other states are pursuing more aggressive reopening strategies.

Louisiana has increased capacity for most business and restaurants to 75%. Texas has reopened all businesses at 100% capacity and Pennsylvania has lifted out-of-state travel restrictions.

After the worst year for jobs in the state’s history saw 423,300 Illinoisians unemployed, loosening restrictions on businesses and events should be a boon for Illinois’ economic recovery. But with just 19% of the state with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, Illinoisians have a way to go until Pritzker allows Illinois to fully reopen in Phase 5.

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