Illinois updates reopening plan

Gov. JB Pritzker announced an updated version of his Restore Illinois reopening plan that should get the state closer to pre-pandemic life sooner while not going as far as some Republican leaders want.

All of Illinois is currently in Phase 4 of Restore Illinois, with Phase 5 representing a full return to normalcy.

Phase 5 can only be reached by a vaccine being developed “to prevent additional spread of COVID-19,” a treatment option being “readily available that ensures health care capacity is no longer a concern” or there being “no new cases over a sustained period.”

Pritzker’s updated plan establishes a “bridge phase” between where the state currently is in terms of restrictions and Phase 5.

“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,” Pritzker said. “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. With projections from the Biden Administration indicating that weekly vaccine deliveries to Illinois will surpass one million doses in April, it is fully in our power to turn the page on this dark and devastating chapter even as we race a tough clock: the new variants. I invite all Illinoisans to join me in wearing your mask and getting vaccinated when it’s your turn.”

“We want and need to move forward, but we must be measured and cautious in the approach,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike added. “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.”

The bridge phase allows for higher capacity limits at spectator events and has fewer limitations on businesses.

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

To then move from the bridge phase to Phase 5, the state must reach a 50 percent vaccination rate for residents ages 16 and over and meet the same metrics and rates required to enter the transition phase, over an additional 28-day period. Pritzker also announced that all Illinois residents ages 16+ will be eligible for the COVID vaccine starting April 12. 

A COVID vaccine clinic is set for Friday from 1-7 p.m. at the fairgrounds in Waterloo. The Moderna first dose will be given to all county residents ages 18-64 with qualifying medical conditions, those ages 65 and older, and essential workers like health care workers and educators. Second dose Moderna shots will also be administered to those who received their first dose of Moderna on or prior to Feb. 18. Read more by clicking here.

If the state experiences an increasing trend in COVID-19 and COVID-like illness hospital admissions, a decrease in ICU bed availability, an increase in the mortality rate and an increasing case rate over 10 days, it can move back a phase.

The updated plan also stipulates that those who have been fully vaccinated against the virus or have a negative test one to three days before an event or outing are not included in the count when calculating capacity limits.

This revision is a step toward what local Republican lawmakers have been calling for in recent weeks, as they have said the state should move fully into Phase 5.

“While I’m happy that the Administration is finally heeding our calls to allow Illinois to move closer toward reopening, I continue to be disappointed with the way the Governor is handling this process,” state Sen. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) said. “I have urged the governor to bring lawmakers to the table to work together to establish transparent and clear guidelines for allowing Illinois to fully reopen in a safe and efficient manner. He has ignored our calls for cooperation and refuses to release his unilateral grip on the future of this state. So it comes as no surprise that the Governor is once again walking back on his plan to reopen Illinois. While this newly created ‘bridge’ gives a glimmer of hope, it’s certainly not enough.”

State Rep. David Friess (R-Red Bud) has also written an op-ed arguing the state should move into the final phase of the Restore Illinois plan.

“Everyone may be tested at their local health department or hospital, the health departments have contact tracing in place, the medical community has learned how to treat positive cases over the last year and we are currently administering a vaccine from three different manufacturers,” Friess noted.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

James Moss

James is an alumni of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville where he graduated summa cum laude with degrees in mass communications and applied communications studies. While in school, he interned at two newspapers and worked at a local grocery store to pay for his education. When not working for the Republic-Times, he enjoys watching movies, reading, playing video games and spending time with his friends.
HTC web