Illinois remains under a "stay-at-home" order through May 30, but during his daily press conference this afternoon, Governor J.B. Pritzker outlined his plan for the future, introducing a phased approach for reopening the state. The Restore Illinois plan divides the state into four regions—Northeast Illinois (containing Chicago), North-Central Illinois, Central Illinois and Southern Illinois—which can move through five phases independently of one another, dependent upon an evolving set of benchmarks established by the state and the Illinois Department of Public Health.
"Science and data are our overarching guardrails for how we move forward, and within those guardrails I've listened to people within the state and across the nation about what can be done to put us on a path toward normalcy," Gov. Pritzker stated, noting that he's consulted with as many people as possible to hear their concerns and formulate a plan that will allow the state to safely reopen.
According to Gov. Pritzker, all of Illinois is currently in Phase 2 (the "flattening" phase) of his plan, when the rate of infection is beginning to slow and stabilize while the use of face coverings in public places has become mandatory. Illinois entered Phase 2 with the revised "stay-at-home" order that went into effect on May 2, allowing some non-essential businesses to reopen for curbside service and making it possible for some outdoor activities to resume under current social-distancing guidelines. IDPH will be tracking the data in each region of the state and approving any moves into a new phase of the recovery plan—it also has the power to move a region backwards if COVID-19 cases spike.
In order to move to Phase 3 (the "recovery" phase), regions will need to stay "at or under a 20 percent positivity rate and increasing no more than 10 percentage points over a 14-day period" while seeing no increase in hospital admissions for COVID-19 cases and maintaining capacity at hospitals for potential surges in infection. Additionally, COVID-19 testing must be available to all at-risk residents in the region and contact tracing must be able to begin within 24 hours of a diagnosis (the state plans to launch a contact-tracing system by the end of May). The earliest that any region in Illinois could move into Phase 3 is May 29, which comes 28 days after the beginning of Phase 2 on May 1.
Phase 3 guidelines allow gatherings of 10 or fewer people to take place, allow all state parks to reopen, allow employees at non-essential businesses to return to work under IDPH safety guidelines, allow barbershops and salons to reopen with reduced capacity and allow gyms to offer outdoor classes and personal training. In Phase 3, schools would continue operating remotely, businesses would be encouraged to have employees work from home, and restaurants and bars would only be able to offer takeout and delivery.
Getting to Phase 4 (the "revitalization" phase) requires that regions continue to see the same stability in COVID-19 rates that brought them into Phase 3, while also being able to offer testing to any resident (regardless of symptoms or risk) and being able to begin contact tracing within 24 hours for 90 percent of all COVID-19 cases. Entering this phase will likely involve testing and contact-tracing resources that the state does not yet have, making it unlikely that any region will enter this phase in the next few months.
Any region that reaches Phase 4 would be able to host gatherings of 50 or fewer people; allow restaurants, bars, cinemas and theaters to reopen with capacity limits; and allow schools to resume in-person learning under new safety guidelines.
Gov. Pritzker made it clear that the only way to reach Phase 5 (the "Illinois restored" phase) is with "a vaccine or a widely available and highly effective treatment" for COVID-19 or with "the elimination of any new cases over a sustained period of time." This phase is essentially a return to life as it was before the pandemic began, and as long as the virus continues to spread, it's difficult to fathom when any region would be able to enter this phase.
Based on the ways in which the virus spreads, Gov. Pritzker pointed out that "large conventions, festivals and other major events will be on hold until we reach Phase 5." That means that any summer festivals that haven't yet been canceled or postponed (such as Lollapalooza and Pitchfork Music Festival) will likely be forced to do so in the coming weeks. Major fall events like Riot Fest, Chicago Gourmet and the Chicago Jazz Festival may be next on the chopping block, unless the situation changes drastically in the coming months.
"I spent decades in business, so I understand the urge to try and flip the switch and reopen our entire economy. Here's the problem: That switch simply does not exist with a virus that can't currently be eliminated by medical science," Pritzker stated while acknowledging that the plan he's set forth will evolve alongside the science and data surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak.
Take a look at the regional breakdown and phases of the Restore Illinois plan below and find more information about the plan on the IDPH website.
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