Gov. Pritzker announces path to re-opening of Illinois, vaccine eligibility expansion to 16-and-up

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CHICAGO, Ill. (WTVO) — Gov. JB Pritzker and health officials announced a metrics-based pathway to the reopening of Illinois before moving the state into Phase 5 of the “Restore Illinois” plan.

Pritzker announced that all Illinois residents ages 16-and-up will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting April 12th.

Billed as “Restore Illinois,” the five-phase plan is guided by public health metrics designed to provide a framework for reopening businesses, education, and recreational activities in each phase.

“COVID-19 has not gone away, but the light we can see at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter and brighter as more people get vaccinated,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “It’s time to begin to cautiously move toward normalcy, and it’s imperative that we do so in a way that maintains all the progress we’ve made to date.”

Currently, every region is in Phase 4 of the 5 phase “Restore Illinois” plan.

According to Gov. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health, a “Bridge Phase” will serve as a transition period with higher capacity limits and increased business operations, without prematurely reopening before the majority of Illinoisans have been vaccinated. All regions of the state will move through the Bridge Phase and ultimately to Phase 5, together.

The state’s mask mandate will continue in accordance with current CDC guidance.

To advance into the Bridge Phase, the entire state must reach a 70% first dose vaccination rate for residents 65 and over, maintain a 20% or lower ICU bed availability rate and hold steady on COVID-19 and COVID-like illness hospital admissions, mortality rate, and case rate over a 28-day monitoring period.

The state has currently vaccinated 58% of residents over 65.

In the “Bridge Phase,” dining areas can increase to 30% capacity indoors, and 50% capacity outdoors.

Health and fitness centers, offices, personal care, retail businesses, amusement parks, conventions, museums, spectator events, theaters and zoos can increase to 60% capacity.

Festivals and outdoor events can admit 30 people per 1,000 square feet.

Flea markets can have 15 people indoors per 1,000 square feet, and 30 people outdoors per 1,000 square feet.

Recreation centers can admit the lesser of 100 people or 50% capacity, with a maximum of 100 attendees outdoors.

Social events can expand to 250 people indoors, or 500 people outdoors.

Metrics that will allow the state to enter the “Bridge Phase” will be measured on a 10-day monitoring period.

To advance to Phase 5, the state must reach a 50% vaccination rate for residents age 16 and over and meet the same metrics and rates required to enter the transition phase, over an additional 28-day period.

“We want and need to move forward, but we must be measured and cautious in the approach,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “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. We don’t want to move too quickly and risk a significant reversal of our progress.”

Under the plan, Phase 5 is described as:

“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 Illinois Department of Public Health today reported 2,325 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus in Illinois, including 34 additional deaths.

Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 1,216,090 cases, including 21,022 deaths, in 102 counties in Illinois.

State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) issued the following statement after the Governor’s announcement:

“After a year of uncertainty and instability, I’m encouraged that the Governor is finally hearing the calls from Republican lawmakers and the public to move Illinois closer toward a full reopening. However, I still have concerns.

“Under the Governor’s continued go-it-alone plan, Illinois remains one of the most restrictive states in the nation, yet we still have one of the highest death rates per capita. It’s clear, the current approach is not working. We need to open up our state and return to normalcy.

“It’s time to set aside politics, look at the science and recognize what’s working in other states that are open and thriving.”

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