When Can Illinois Enter Phase 4?

Beatrice J. Doty

ACROSS ILLINOIS — The earliest Illinois could move into Phase 4 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan would be June 26. And currently, all regions of the state or on track to do so, state officials told Patch on Friday.

In recent weeks, the number of people testing positive for the virus has decreased. And on Sunday, 19 people died due to COVID-19, which was the lowest 24-hour death count since April 2, according to state health data.

But even as the state moves closer to that next phase, which would allow restaurants to open seating inside and for schools to resume classes, some politicians and mayors are urging Pritzker to reopen sooner.

Last week, Rep. Dan Ugaste, R-Geneva, said Illinois is among the few states to look at 28 days of a sustained drop in cases instead of 14 days, which is the benchmark for most other states.

He added that moving to the next phase as soon as possible is needed to help struggling businesses.

“Governor Pritzker has utilized science to develop his recovery plan, but his reasoning is just not adding up right now,” Ugaste said. “It makes no sense to allow people in retail stores, but ban them from a restaurant. Every day that we delay moving forward, another business closes. This has a domino affect further impacting the jobs climate, unemployment, and the mental health and overall well-being of Illinois residents. We cannot afford to rely on one person’s flawed reasoning any longer.”

Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau echoed Ugaste’s sentiments in recent days. Last week, he urged Pritzker to consider moving to Phase 4 on Friday, which marked day 14 of a sustained drop in cases, he said. He also shared a pair of videos to show what he sees as inconsistencies, hypocrisies and “asinine” parts of the governor’s Restore Illinois plan.

“Selling pot was essential, but selling goods and services at a family-owned business was not,” he said. “Pot was not even legal and pot dispensaries did not even exist in this state until 6 months ago and in those few months they became essential. But a family-owned business that’s been in existence for five generations was not. Really?”

Regardless of what local politicians and mayors may think, Pritzker’s office says the state is still on track to move to the next phase on June 26 — at the earliest.

Illinois Is Only State To Meet Fed Guidelines For Reopening

In Phase 4, which is the “revitalization phase,” the following changes are expected to occur:

  • Gatherings or 50 or fewer people are allowed. Under current guidelines, only 10 or fewer people are allowed to gather.

  • All schools and child care facilities can reopen under Illinois Department of Public Health-approved guidance. This includes colleges, pre-school through grade 12 schools and all summer programs.

  • Bars and restaurants will be able to open with capacity limits in place and under IDPH-approved guidance. In Phase 3, bars and restaurants have been allowed to serve food and drink outside if they are able to secure outdoor seating. In Phase 4, establishments can open for interior seating.

  • Personal care services and health clubs: All barbershops, salons, spas and health and fitness clubs can open with capacity limits and IDPH approved safety guidance. Currently, health clubs and gyms are able to resume one-on-one training or hold outdoor training sessions with up to 10 people. Hair and nail salons, barbershops and tattoo studios were also allowed to open with new restrictions.

  • In Phase 4, all employees can return to work with IDPH approved safety guidance but employers are encouraged to provide accommodations for COVID-19-vulnerable employees. All manufacturing businesses can open and retail businesses will be open with capacity limits in place.

  • Cinemas and theaters can open with capacity limits in place. In addition, all outdoor recreation is allowed and and all health care providers can open.

In order to move from Phase 3 to Phase 4, state officials say there must be a continued decline in the rate of infection in new COVID-19 cases. In addition, testing is widely available and contact tracing is commonplace.

While more businesses will be open in Phase 4, wearing masks will continue to be required, and overall, the practice of social distancing will continue.

Pritzker’s five-phased plan is “guided by heath metrics,” according to the Restore Illinois website. In Phase 4, the rate of infection among those surveillance tested and the number of patients admitted to the hospital will continue.

Under the plan, the state is broken into four regions and state health officials are monitoring key health metrics to try and best ensure that region is prepared to safely move on to the next phase. Among the metrics is the percent of positive coronavirus cases, percentage of hospital beds available, and ventilator availability.

As of Sunday, the northeast region in the Restore Illinois plan, which includes all of the Chicago area, was meeting all metrics to move on to Phase 4. In the northeast region, 7 percent of the population tested positive for the new coronavirus, hospital admissions had dropped by 79 percent in the past 28 days and ventilator availability was at 74 percent.

“Right now, all regions of the state are on track to move to phase four. The earliest that could happen would be June 26th,” Jordan Abudayyeh, press secretary for the governor’s office, told Patch in an e-mail response.

The final phase of Pritzker’s plan, Phase 5, means a vaccine or an effective and widely-available treatment is in place or there has been an elimination of new cases over a sustained period of time through herd immunity or other factors. In Phase 5, conventions, festival and large events will be permitted.

Pritzker’s plan does take into account the possibility for a resurgance in COVID-19 cases. IDPH will closely monitor data and feedback from local health departments and regional healthcare councils and will recommend moving back a phase if there is a sustained rise in the positivity rate, sustained increase in hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illnesses, reduction in hospital capacity that threatens surge capabilities and a significant outbreak in the region that threatens the health of the region.

This article originally appeared on the Crystal Lake-Cary Patch

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