Easing of business restrictions slow as COVID-19 cases surge

Coronavirus

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Increasing numbers of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are delaying Illinois’ reopening plans, state public health officials said this week.

Some business operating restrictions were to be lifted this week under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s “bridge phase,” which precedes a full reopening. The plan requires hospitalization to hold steady or decline over a 28-day period.

Illinois Department of Public Health officials say hospitalizations have increased almost daily since falling to a one-year low on March 12. Hospitalizations totaled 1,396 beds by late Monday, the most since late February.

“As long as new hospital admissions continue to increase, the state will not advance to the bridge phase and on to Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois Plan,” health department officials said in a statement. “Health officials continue to urge all residents to continue to mask up, socially distance, and avoid crowds to reduce transmission and bring the metrics back in line to transition to the bridge phase.”

Under the “bridge phase,” museums, zoos, amusement parks and convention centers would have increased to 60% capacity.

Both Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot have expressed concern about the rising transmission of COVID-19 among young adults purportedly paying less heed to basic pandemic precautions.

“The numbers we’re seeing now are alarming and we must move quickly to get them down,” Lightfoot said Tuesday. “Folks, the pandemic is not over. Warmer weather is not an excuse to make reckless decisions. Please continue following public health guidance.”

Health officials reported 2,404 new COVID-19 cases , including 17 new deaths. Over the past year, more than 1.2 million residents have contracted the virus, and 21,273 have died.

The state also reported 86,812 vaccine doses were administered by late Monday. More than 2.1 million Illinois residents have been fully vaccinated so far, or about 16.6% of the population.

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