A plan is in place to reopen Illinois, even as the number of coronavirus cases and deaths continue to rise.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker outlined the plan Tuesday, calling it a way to “safely reintroduce the parts of our lives that have been put on hold” during the pandemic.
More deaths linked to COVID-19 were reported in Illinois on Tuesday than in any 24-hour period previously: 176.
But the governor's message was focused on moving forward.
“We have to figure out how to live with COVID-19 until it can be vanquished – and to do so in a way that best supports our residents’ health and our health care systems, and saves the most lives,” he said.
The five-phase, regional plan, called “Restore Illinois,” is based on data, science and guidance from public health experts and stakeholders across the state, according to the governor.
It splits the state into four regions – northeast, north-central, central and southern Illinois – based on Illinois Department of Public Health emergency medical services regions. Each region can move independently through the five phases as businesses, education and recreational activities are restored, according to the governor’s office.
Illinois has already gone through phase one of the plan in which the virus was spreading rapidly and strict stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines were put into place. That phase ended on April 30 when Pritzker’s initial stay-at-home order expired, according to the governor.
On May 1, the state entered phase two of the plan when the modified stay-at-home order began, Pritzker said. During this phase, the rate of infection and number of patients hospitalized is increasing at “an ever slower rate, moving toward a flat and even downward trajectory,” according to the plan.
Moving from phase two to phase three will be driven by the COVID-19 positivity rate in each region and measures of maintaining regional hospital surge capacity, according to the plan. In order to move to phase three, a region must meet all of the following criteria:
– A positivity rate under 20% and increase of no more than 10 percentage points over a 14-day period
– No overall increase in hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illnesses for 28 days
– Available surge capacity of at least 14% of ICU beds, medical and surgical beds, and ventilators
– Testing available for all patients, health care workers, first responders, people with underlying conditions, and residents and staff in congregate living facilities
– Begin contact tracing and monitoring within 24 hours of diagnosis
The earliest any one region could move into phase three of the plan is May 29, according to Pritzker. In that phase, manufacturing, offices, barbershops and salons can reopen with capacity limits and other safety precautions, according to the plan. Gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed and face coverings and social distancing will be required.
In order to move onto phase four, regions must meet all of the benchmarks previously outlined, as well as the ability to test, regardless of risk factor, and begin contact tracing and monitoring of patients within 24 hours of diagnosis for more than 90% of cases in a region, according to the plan.
In phase four, gatherings of up to 50 people will be allowed, and restaurants, bars, childcare facilities and schools will be able to reopen under IDPH guidance. Face coverings and social distancing will be the norm, according to the plan. All outdoor recreation will be allowed in this phase. Fitness clubs, movie theaters, salons and barbershops can reopen with limited capacity.
The fifth and final phase will occur when the economy reopens fully with safety precautions continuing, according to the plan. Conventions, festivals and large events will be permitted under this plan and all businesses, schools, places of recreation will also be allowed to reopen.
But that phase is likely a long way off. Pritzker said it would require a vaccine, highly effective treatment or reaching herd immunity with no new cases.
The plan also outlines what would cause regions to move back to a more restrictive phase. IDPH could recommend moving back to a previous phase if there’s a sustained rise in COVID-19 positivity rate, increase in hospital admissions, reduction in hospital capacity threatening surge capabilities and a significant outbreak that threatens the health of the region, according to the plan.
“Moving backward is the last thing anyone wants to do,” Pritzker said, but if the virus begins to spread, “swift action will need to be taken.”
Pritzker also acknowledged that the plan could change, saying: “There’s no modern day precedent for this. We’re literally writing the playbook as we go.”
Both Pritzker and IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike on Tuesday urged residents to continue following public health guidance.
“The truth is we’re still in a significant war with an enemy,” Ezike said. In two months, 2,500 Illinois residents have died from the virus. “That’s an unprecedented amount of lives lost compared to anytime in Illinois history. We still have a choice to make.”
Ezike urged people to wear masks in public and to stay home as much as possible. “The fact is that we are still battling the same virus we were all so united in fighting just two months ago,” she said. “We have to continue to do the right thing.”
Coronavirus Prevention Tips and Resources
Officials advise taking preventive measures to slow the spread of the virus, including:
—Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
—Using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
—Sneezing or coughing into a tissue and then disposing of the tissue
—Limiting contact with people regardless of how you feel
—Staying home when you are sick
Symptoms of COVID-19 include, but are not limited to:
—New onset of fever, cough, shortness of breath
—Congestion in the nasal sinuses or lungs
—Sore throat, body aches or unusual fatigue
If you think you have COVID-19:
Call you doctor before showing up at their office. If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, tell the operator that you think you have COVID-19. If possible, wear a mask before medical help arrives or presenting at a doctor’s office. More advice for those who think they have COVID-19.
—Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
—Illinois’ COVID-19 website
—Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) website
—IDPH COVID-19 hotline: 800-889-3931
—IPDH COVID-19 email link
—City of Chicago COVID-19 website
—City of Chicago COVID-19 hotline: 312-746-4835
—City of Chicago COVID-19 email link