CHICAGO, Ill. (WTVO) — Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced that the state of Illinois will move into Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois plan on Friday, June 11th if COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to trend downward.
Pritzker also announced that Illinois will move into a “Bridge Phase” starting Friday, May 14th.
“I’m pleased to announce that the concerning upward movement of cases and hospitalizations we were seeing a few weeks ago have stabilized – a testament to the lifesaving, community-protecting power of vaccinations,” said Pritzker. “As a result, on Friday, May 14th, the State of Illinois will move into the Bridge Phase of our mitigation plan – one step closer to removing nearly all of the remaining mitigations, and a very hopeful move toward fully reopening.”
The bridge to Phase Five expands capacity to 60% for gyms, theaters, spectator events, zoos, offices, retail, museums and amusement parks.
Phase 5 will allow businesses to function without COVID-19 restrictions. As it was defined in the Restore Illinois plan, “Phase 5 – Illinois Restored: With a vaccine or highly effective treatment widely available or the elimination of any new cases over a sustained period, the economy fully reopens with safety precautions continuing. Conventions, festivals and large events are permitted, and all businesses, schools, and places of recreation can open with new safety guidance and procedures in place reflecting the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The governor also announced that COVID-19 vaccines will be made available to physicians offices across the state, and doctors are encouraged to enroll to begin administering the vaccine to their patients.
“The days of vaccine scarcity are over,” Pritzker said.
Currently, 1,054 doctors’ offices across the state have already registered to administer the COVID-19 vaccine on site.
Pritzker said vaccines could become available to young people, ages 12-15, as early as next week.
So far, 60% of adult residents have received their first dose, including 85% of residents ages 65 and older. To further expand vaccine accessibility, state-run vaccination sites will now accept walk-ins in addition to pre-booked appointments.
Pritzker, along with Illinois Department of Public Health director Dr. Ngozi Ezike and other health professionals addressed vaccine hesitancy among Black residents, who are currently under vaccinated, compared to the rest of the state’s residents, they said.
“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on families, particularly Black and Brown families. It’s important for family physicians, who have spent years, sometimes over multiple generations, building trust with the families they treat, to encourage and engage with patients and their families to get them vaccinated,” said Dr. Whitney Lyn of Sengstacke Clinic, Provident Hospital.
Health experts have underscored the vaccines’ safety, noting that their development was unusually quick but based on years of previous research and those used in the U.S. have shown no signs of serious side effects in studies of tens of thousands of people.
But in a recent poll by The Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 57% of Black Americans said they’d received at least one shot or planned to be vaccinated, compared with 68% of white Americans.
Black people make up 30% of Chicago’s population but, early in the pandemic, more than half the COVID-19 deaths. That gap has narrowed, though illness disparities that explain that risk persist, including high rates of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Black people are more likely to have jobs that don’t provide health insurance or the luxury of working safely at home in a pandemic.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.