Gov. J.B. Pritzker said on Monday that Illinois is rapidly moving towards moving to the “Bridge Phase” of reopening, which will allow for expanded capacity at businesses and venues.
Pritzker appeared in Cook County Monday morning to discuss the opening of a new mass vaccination site in Forest Park.
During the press conference, he said that one in three adult residents in Illinois have already been vaccinated and 65% of seniors who are 65 years old and over have been vaccinated.
“That’s amazing progress. And we’ll be making even greater strides once we’re able to open up vaccine appointments to all adults on April 12,” Pritzker said.
On Monday, higher education staff, government workers and members of the news media are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine in Illinois.
Pritzker announced last Thursday that all Illinois residents will be eligible for the vaccine beginning on April 12 and that the state will fully reopen to Phase 5, which comes after the “Bridge Phase,” once 50% of residents are vaccinated.
The governor said that the vaccine eligibility expansion is 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.
The “Bridge Phase,” which is between Phase 4 and Phase 5, will serve as a transition period with higher capacity limits and increased business operations.
The Bridge Phase consists of the following limits: standing areas for dining capped at 30% indoor and 50% outdoor; health and fitness at 60% capacity and group classes of 50 or fewer indoors; festivals and outdoor spectator events at 30 people per 1,000 square feet; flea and farmers markets capped at 15 people per 1,000 square feet indoor and 30 people per 1,000 square feet outdoor; conferences and conventions capped at the lesser of 1,000 people or 60% capacity; recreation businesses capped at the lesser of 100 people or 50% capacity indoor; social events capped at 250 people indoor and 500 people outdoor.
Offices, personal care businesses, retail and service counter businesses, amusement parks, film production, museums, ticketed and seated spectator events, theaters and performing arts, and zoos will be capped at 60% in the Bridge Phase.
Pritzker said that this will help from a “reckless reopening” happening 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 on Thursday.
“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,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike said.
“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.
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 4.7 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.