File Photo – Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker | Photo: Illinois Information Service.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said that Illinois is making progress in its COVID-19 metrics and could enter the “Bridge Phase” of reopening within days.

Pritzker discussed the topic earlier this week while speaking at a press conference in Aurora about expanding COVID-19 resources and vaccine accessibility.

“As you have seen in the numbers, they’ve been coming down gradually, which is terrific,” Pritzker said.

“We have a period of time that we wait – I think it’s another, I’ll have to look at the IDPH website lately, but it’s, you know, five or six more days of decline, which will allow us to move to the Bridge Phase and then on to Phase Five,” Pritzker added.

Based on his comment, that means the advancement to the Bridge Phase could be this Saturday or Sunday for the entire state.

Pritzker had made similar comments in late March about advancing to the Bridge Phase, but that move was put on hold after an increase in COVID cases and hospitalizations.

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79% of seniors who are 65 years old and over have been vaccinated in Illinois and 54% of all residents 16 and older have had at least their first dose of the vaccine, state data shows.

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.

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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.

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 has said.

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, which it has already met.

The state must also 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.

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According to state data, the move to the Bridge Phase is held up due to an increasing trend direction of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. However, those numbers have stablized and are expected to show a flat trend in the coming days.

To advance to Phase 5, the state must reach a 50% vaccination rate for residents ages 16 and over, which it already has, and must also meet the same metrics and rates required to enter the transition phase over an additional 28-day period.

The state has administered over 9.1 million doses since December and is averaging 100,000 vaccinations a day.

To read more about the “Bridge Phase” plan, click here to read an information document published by state health officials.