This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

CHICAGO — Governor JB Pritzker announced a major expansion of the COVID-19 vaccination program Thursday and a new phase of reopening for Illinois.

The governor says all Illinois residents who are 16 and older, outside of Chicago, will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations starting on April 12.

Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike made the announcement during a coronavirus update, in which the governor also revealed a metrics-based, vaccination-informed framework for Illinois to advance to Phase 5 of the state’s Restore Illinois Plan

The “Bridge Phase” will bridge between Phase 4 restrictions and the “new normal” operations of Phase 5 and will serve as a transition period with higher capacity limits and increased business operations.

The state’s mask mandate will continue in accordance with current CDC guidance.

“COVID-19 has not gone away, but the light we can see at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter and brighter as more people get vaccinated,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “It’s time to begin to cautiously move toward normalcy, and it’s imperative that we do so in a way that maintains all the progress we’ve made to date. With projections from the Biden Administration indicating that weekly vaccine deliveries to Illinois will surpass one million doses in April, it is fully in our power to turn the page on this dark and devastating chapter even as we race a tough clock: the new variants. I invite all Illinoisans to join me in wearing your mask and getting vaccinated when it’s your turn. Step by step, we can get out of this the same we came into it – together.”

To advance into the Bridge Phase, the entire state must reach a 70% first dose vaccination rate for residents 65 and over, maintain a 20% or lower ICU bed availability rate and hold steady on COVID-19 and COVID-like illness hospital admissions, mortality rate, and case rate over a 28-day monitoring period.

To advance to Phase 5, the state must reach a 50% vaccination rate for residents age 16 and over and meet the same metrics and rates required to enter the transition phase, over an additional 28-day period.

On Wednesday, the city announced it will expand vaccine eligibility to Phase 1C on March 29 — which includes all essential workers who cannot work from home and Chicagoans ages 16-64 with underlying conditions.

Chicago is on track to administer it’s one millionth dose by next week and the federal government is promising more supply.

Half of Chicagoans 65 and older have been vaccinated. But as officials try to improve that number they admit under 1C, seniors may find it more difficult to get the vaccine and officials said they need to sign up now.

“It is going to be harder, honestly, for people over 65 to get a vaccine after March 29,” Dr. Arwady said. “We will do everything we can to prioritize them.”

Continuing on with Phase 1C, only Chicago residents will be able to get shots at Chicago public vaccination sites.

Latest coronavirus news here