Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker explains the modified reopening plan during a press conference Thursday. | Photo: Illinois Information Service.

Gov. Pritzker announced major updates on Thursday, saying all Illinois residents will be eligible for the vaccine on April 12 and that the state will fully reopen to Phase 5 once 50% of residents are vaccinated.

Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike announced the new framework to advance to Phase 5 of the state’s Restore Illinois Plan during a press conference.

Pritzker said that all Illinois residents ages 16 and older — except Chicago residents — will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting April 12 due to the increasing national vaccine supply and due to the state averaging 100,000 vaccinations a day.

Every health region of the state is in Phase 4 of the five-phase Restore Illinois mitigation plan, with Phase 5 comprising a post-pandemic return to normalcy with 100% capacity limits.

State officials unveiled a new “Bridge Phase” between Phase 4 and Phase 5, which will serve as a transition period with higher capacity limits and increased business operations.

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Pritzker said that this will help from a “reckless reopening” before the majority of residents 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, the governor said.

“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,” he said.

“We want and need to move forward, but we must be measured and cautious in the approach,” Ezike said.

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“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,” she added.

The bridge to Phase 5 allows for higher capacity limits at places like museums, zoos and spectator events as well as increased business operations.

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 hospital admissions, mortality rate and case rate over a 28-day monitoring period.

To advance to Phase 5, the state must reach a 50% 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.

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Currently, 25% of residents over the age of 16 are vaccinated, including 58% of Illinois residents ages 65 and over.

Illinois will revert back to an earlier phase if the state experiences an increasing trend in COVID-19 hospital admissions, a decrease in ICU bed availability, an increase in the mortality rate, and an increasing case rate, over the course of a 10-day period.

Individuals with proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test (PCR) one to three days prior to an event or outing do not count against capacity limits in the current and upcoming phases, Pritzker said in an update.

The state has administered over 4.3 million doses since December and is now averaging 100,000 vaccinations a day.

To read more about the “Bridge Phase” plan, click here to read the newly-released document published by state officials.