Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker is planning to begin opening more of the state’s economy starting on Friday, May 14 – as long as there is no increase in COVID-19-related hospitalizations before then.
Pritzker on Thursday outlined the state’s move to a so-called “Bridge Phase,” which is a stepping stone toward fully opening the state’s economy now that the vast majority of seniors and residents over the age of 16 have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
“The light that we can see at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter and brighter as more people get vaccinated,” Pritzker said at a news conference.
If there are no spikes in cases or hospitalizations, then Illinois would be on track to fully reopen its economy on Friday, June 11, Pritzker said.
When Pritzker first announced the creation of the bridge phase, he said it would begin once 70% of seniors and 50% of residents who are at least 16 had been vaccinated. The state has met those standards already.
But a surge of new cases and hospitalizations has delayed the start of the bridge phase. More than 2,000 people have been in Illinois hospitals with coronavirus-like symptoms almost every day since April 13.
As of Wednesday night, 2,055 residents were hospitalized with the virus, with 243 on ventilators, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
“This pandemic is not over but if we’re going to truly end it, we have to make sure that we don’t see another surge in the virus and the best way to do that is for everyone to get vaccinated,” Pritzker said. “We need millions more to get vaccinated and the best time to do that is now.”Under the bridge phase, restaurants would be limited to seating parties no larger than 10 people and tables must remain six feet apart. Indoor standing areas would be limited to serving at no more than 30% capacity.
Health and fitness centers will be able to operate at 60% capacity while limiting indoor fitness classes to no more than 50 people.
Offices, personal care facilities, retail, amusement parks, museums, theaters, zoos and spectator events will be capped at 60% capacity.
Outdoor festivals will be limited to 30 people per 1,000 square feet.
Illinois would leave the Bridge Phase and enter Phase 5 — a full reopening of the state’s economy — after monitoring COVID-19 cases for 28 days.
Additionally, Pritzker said the state will begin to expand access to the vaccine by providing doses to personal physicians around the state so patients could receive a dose when they visit their doctor.Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.