Changes coming Friday as state incrementally reopens amid pandemic
By REBECCA ANZEL, Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD — Illinois will advance to the “Recovery” phase of Gov. JB Pritzker’s plan to incrementally reopen the state’s economy on Friday after almost 70 days of residents living under a stay-at-home restriction.
It comes as Illinois is one of only two states to meet federal COVID-19 guidelines to reopening, according to a ProPublica analysis. New York is the other.
Retail shops, restaurants, barbershops, salons and fitness clubs are set to resume business, but with restrictions implemented by the Illinois Department of Public Health to combat exposure to the novel coronavirus.
All state parks, wildlife areas and historic sites will be available to visit as well, and social gatherings of no more than 10 people will be allowed.
The changes are permitted because all four Illinois regions — groupings of counties based on IDPH’s emergency medical service districts — achieved specified benchmarks. Those include a COVID-19 positivity rate below 20 percent for 14 consecutive days and a stable or declining hospitalization rate.
When Pritzker announced his Restore Illinois plan in early May, he said residents should expect COVID-19 to remain a threat until it can be “vanquished.”
“Until we have a vaccine or an effective treatment or enough widespread immunity that new cases fail to materialize, the option of returning to normalcy doesn’t exist,” the governor said.
People will still be expected to wear facial coverings and practice social distancing when in public places.
“Non-essential” businesses and stores, closed for more than two months to in-person customers and workers, can reopen Friday with capacity limitations, social distancing observations and other safety guidance measures from IDPH.
That same guidance will be implemented for barbershops and salons. And for those workplaces that can enable remote activities, it is encouraged they do so.
Restaurants will remain closed to indoor dining, but Pritzker amended the Phase 3 plan to allow outdoor, socially distanced dining. Delivery, pickup and drive-thru are still options.
All of the state’s 5,000-plus child care providers not in operation will be advised to reopen. Pritzker said for the first four weeks that they are open, providers will be able to serve up to 10 children per classroom.
“Once they have provided care safely for four weeks and have gotten accustomed to the new health, social distancing and sanitation routines, they will be able to expand to larger group sizes, though not yet at their fully licensed capacity,” he said.
Fitness clubs can also hold outdoor activities, as well as one-on-one training with an instructor so long as public health department guidance is observed.
The General Assembly created a Restore Illinois Collaborative Commission to “participate in and provide input on plans to revive the various sectors of the state’s economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic” when it convened for four days last week.
Because the commission “may request meetings be convened to address revitalization efforts for the various sectors of the state’s economy,” it is unclear what level of input legislators will have on the governor’s reopening plan.
Republicans, who long sought more input in that blueprint, called the newly created body “window dressing.”
The next step after the “recovery” phase is “revitalization.” Schools and other child care programs can reopen so long as social distancing is observed, restaurants can serve in-house diners and social gatherings will be limited to 50 people or fewer.
Framers of the plan anticipate at least a 28-day period before the state can progress into that phase, meaning no sooner than Friday, June 26.
Among the criteria for entering Phase 4 will be that COVID-19 testing is available to anyone who wants it, regardless of symptoms or risk factors; a contact tracing program must be in place; hospitalization rates must remain stable or decline; and the positivity rate must be below 20 percent for 14 consecutive days.