CHICAGO — Many stay-at-home restrictions put in place amidst the coronavirus pandemic will be relaxed across Illinois tomorrow as planned, Governor JB Pritzker said Thursday.
All regions established in the state’s “Restore Illinois” plan meet the metrics for moving on to “Phase 3” of reopening, as rates of new COVID-19 cases continue to decline and hospitals retain enough capacity to handle a surge in patients.
“Starting tomorrow, all areas of the state are eligible to reopen,” Pritzker said Thursday.
Under Phase 3, gatherings of 10 people or less will be allowed, bars and restaurants can offer outdoor seating, stores can let customers inside and people can go back to work at other “non-essential” businesses — all with certain restrictions, including use of masks in public areas.
Even though the northeast region which includes Chicago qualifies to move on to Phase 3, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city will move on to the next phase of reopening on June 3.
On Thursday, Illinois Department of Public Health reported 1,527 new cases of coronavirus and 104 additional related deaths Thursday, bringing statewide totals to 115,833 cases and 5,186 deaths.
The statewide positivity rate of coronavirus tests continues to decline, reaching about 8 percent as of Thursday, and over 829,000 tests have been performed to date. Of those diagnosed with COVID-19, the state reports 95 percent are believed to have recovered.
Unemployment remains a major concern, as the Illinois Department of Employment Security reported Thursday that it processed 1,302,154 initial unemployment claims from March 1 to May 23.
The governor is also taking a hard look at the practices of private nursing homes and long-care facilities, issuing new rules Thursday requiring each to have testing and infectious disease plans on the books.
Close to half of the state’s coronavirus-related deaths can be traced back to long-term care facilities. Pritzker says the new rules give IDPH “actual teeth” as it works to get private facilities to expand coronavirus testing.
Even as things begin to open up on Friday, many are already looking towards Phase 4, which allows bars and restaurants to fully reopen, permits gatherings of up to 50 people and opens schools for in-person instruction.
However, the 28-day clock restarts as soon as the state enters Phase 3, so the earliest any region can move to Phase 4 is June 26.