Region enters Phase 4

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This graph from John Hopkins University shows the trend of coronavirus cases in Illinois, including the peak and that cases have been decreasing this month. 

Every region in Illinois is scheduled to move to the fourth phase of the state’s reopening plan Friday, which, barring changes, will bring the state as close to pre-pandemic life as it will get for some time. 

“Over the last four months, Illinoisans have pulled together with the common mission of keeping each other safe,” Gov. JB Pritzker said Monday. “By staying home and practicing social distancing, the rate of new COVID-19 cases continues to drop… Science and data are the overarching guardrails for how Illinois will keep moving forward. By continuing to wear face coverings and following the guidance from health experts, we can continue to safely reopen our economy and move forward together.”

Pritzker officially announced that all regions of the state will move to the fourth phase on Friday. Additionally, he announced that the state is continuing to expand contact tracing and testing and has launched new tools to help residents make informed decisions about what activities they should do during the pandemic.

“We’ve seen what’s happened in other states that have allowed politics or short-term thinking to drive decision-making. Many other states are now seeing significant increases in cases, hospitalizations and intensive care bed usage, and they’re being forced to move backward and stay at home – that’s not the story in Illinois,” Pritzker said Thursday. “Here, we have been gradually restoring business and leisure activities in a highly deliberate manner, guided by doctors’ advice. Illinoisans are following the mitigations that we can each do ourselves, like wearing face coverings, keeping 6 feet distance between us and washing our hands frequently. It’s because of the people of Illinois that we’re seeing a trajectory of relative success where other parts of the country are not.”

Phase 4 is characterized by the reopening of previously closed businesses and expansion of already open sectors. 

Face coverings and social distancing will continue in this phase.

This data from the Illinois Department of Public Health shows the key metrics used to determine when the southern region can move from Phase 3 to Phase 4 of the sate’s reopening plan. These numbers are from Tuesday. 

In Phase 4, called “revitalization,” there is a 50-person limit on gatherings, up from 10 in Phase 3, which was in place during June. 

According to the reopening plan and industry-specific guidelines released by the Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, there are four additional industry-spanning recommendations. 

Those are: all employees who can work from home should continue to do so, everyone should wear face coverings, practice social distancing and frequently wash their hands, employers should provide employee health screenings at the start of a shift and in the middle of a shift for those working longer than four hours and leaders should limit capacity and group sizes. 

As with Phase 3, many industry-specific guidelines do not apply to patrons, and the state provided both minimum guidelines and encouraged best practices. 

Unless otherwise listed, almost every industry will have a limit of 50 people or 50 percent capacity in a given area. That will be referred to as the standard limit.

Schools in Phase 4 can reopen provided they require the use of appropriate personal protective equipment, including face coverings, prohibit more than 50 individuals from gathering in one space, require social distancing whenever possible, conduct symptom screenings and temperature checks or require self-certification that individuals entering the building are symptom-free and increase schoolwide cleaning and disinfection. 

Each local school district will determine how to implement these requirements. 

Beginning Friday, indoor dining and drinking can resume at bars and restaurants with parties of up to 10 people, tables spaced six feet apart or with impermeable barriers between them and a 25 percent cap on standing area capacity. 

Self-service stations, like beverage fountains and buffets, can also open with enhanced safety measures in place. 

Meetings and events, including social gatherings, can have the standard limit of attendees.  

Groups at these events should remain static for the duration of the gathering, and dance floors should remain closed. 

Another option for fun individuals will have is indoor and outdoor recreation. 

Select indoor recreation facilities like bowling alleys, skating rinks, escape rooms, arcades, bingo halls, shooting ranges, paintball courses and driving ranges can reopen with the standard limit.  

Activity stations should be spaced at least six feet apart to ensure social distancing, and disinfecting procedures should be implemented. 

Other indoor facilities that have more vigorous activities, like indoor playgrounds or trampoline parks, will remain closed. 

All outdoor recreation  is permissible with groups of up to 50 – as long as groups have the space to social distance and interaction among various groups can remain limited. 

Procedures for activities like golf from Phase 3 remain. 

Outdoor seated spectator events can also resume with 20 percent seating capacity and ticketed seating. No general admission shows or indoor spectator events are allowed. 

Similarly, cinemas, theaters and performance arts centers should have ticketed seating but not general admission or events with standing room only. 

The standard limit will be in place for each room of these venues, while outdoor capacity is limited to 20 percent of the overall space. 

Patrons should wear face coverings, except when seated within a venue. 

Given the large numbers of people breathing heavily, the state provided extensive guidelines for health and fitness centers. 

Those facilities will the standard limit, with at least six feet between workout stations or three feet apart with impermeable barriers. 

Patrons should sanitize equipment before and after use, check available capacity before going to the facility and wear a face covering when not exercising. 

The state encouraged individuals to wear a face covering while exercising if possible and arrive with their workout clothes on. 

It also said facilities should check everyone for symptoms prior to entry. 

In the retail sector, stores and service counters can have up to 50 percent of their capacity filled, while customers cannot bring a reusable bag and should wear a face covering. 

Personal care businesses like barbershops nail salons, spas, massage clinics, tattoo parlors and tanning salons will have the 50-percent occupancy limit. 

If a service at one of those places requires the person remove their mask, the employees must wear a mask and eye protection.

As with each phase of the plan, a region could move back a phase if there is a sustained rise in positivity rate, sustained increase in hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illnesses, reduction in hospital capacity threatening surge capabilities or a significant outbreak that threatens the health of a region.

To move to the fifth and final phase, “Illinois Restored,” there must be a vaccine, treatment option for coronavirus or no new cases “over a sustained period of time through herd immunity or other factors.” 

While that is unlikely to happen in the near future, in Phase 5 the economy would reopen in full, with normal business operations and schools implementing new safety guidance and procedures. 

Festivals, large events and conventions would be allowed in this phase. 

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