Barbershops, salons, offices and manufacturing could reopen in just 10 days if the state moves into the next phase of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan.
“That’s terrific news,” Pritzker said Tuesday afternoon.
The state is currently in phase two of the five-phase plan, which divides the state into four regions, which can each move independently through the phases — both forward and, if needed, backwards. Under phase three, called “Recovery,” face coverings and social distancing will still be required, but gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed. Officials are still developing guidance for businesses to reopen, but Pritzker says that information will be available in the coming days.
In order to move out of phase two, the “Flattening” phase, a region must meet certain criteria, including a COVID-19 positivity rate of 20% or less with an increase of no more than 10 percentage points over a 14-day period.
As of Tuesday afternoon, all four regions met that criteria, including the northeast region, which includes Cook County, where there is a 17.8% positivity rate — a 5.1% decrease over the past 14 days, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The four regions are also prepared for a possible surge in cases — as required under the governor’s plan to move from phase two to three — because they have a sufficient number of intensive care beds, ventilators and other medical equipment available.
It remains to be seen if all four regions will meet another requirement to move into phase three. That metric requires no overall increase in hospital admissions for COVID-19 illnesses for 28 days. The earliest a region could reach that benchmark is May 29 because the clock started May 1, when the state entered phase two under a modified stay-at-home order.
But there’s hope. On Tuesday, the state reported its lowest hospitalization rates for COVID-19 since it began reporting them on April 12: 4,002 hospitalized, with 993 in the intensive care unit and 576 on ventilators.
“It’s a good sign there are fewer people in the hospital, but we have to remember that things are going to start changing, so we will continue to follow these numbers,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “And it’s why we need a hard reset and we can’t just jump from phase two to phase four because with each phase we’ve made changes in loosening things up, so we want to make sure that these new things that are coming on board are not resulting in a new acute spike or increase.”
Ezike says Tuesday’s hospitalization rates solidify that the stay-at-home orders, social distancing and wearing masks in public are effective.
Dr. Emily Landon, who specializes in infection prevention and control at the University of Chicago, said it’s up to the public to keep those numbers headed in the right direction. “I hope and I know Illinois can do it,” she said.
In the 24 hours between Monday and Tuesday, there were 1,545 new COVID-19 cases and 146 deaths, according to officials, bringing statewide totals to 98,030 cases and 4,379 deaths.
State health officials also announced they had conducted 18,443 tests since Monday, with 621,684 completed to date. There has been “significant measurable progress” in growing the state’s daily testing capacity, Pritzker said, announcing Illinois had reached “another major milestone.”
“Among the most populous states in the United States, Illinois has now overtaken New York to become the number one state in the nation for testing per capita over the past seven days,” he said, adding there’s still “much more work to do.”
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 your 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
—IDPH 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