CHICAGO — Illinois Governor JB Pritzker introduced his plan for reopening the state Tuesday, outlining a regional and phased approach to rolling back restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The “Restore Illinois” Plan was developed based on science and data, and informed by feedback from a wide range of people, according to Pritzker. He said the framework shows how Illinois can live with the coronavirus, “until it can be vanquished.”
“Here’s the truth — and I don’t like it any more than you do — until we have a vaccine or an effective treatment or enough widespread immunity that new cases fail to materialize, the option of returning to normalcy doesn’t exist,” Pritzker said.
The plan divides the state into four “health regions,” where restrictions may be relaxed at different times. Pritzker said the state decided to do so after downstate legislators and others called for treating more rural areas different than those with major urban centers like Chicago.
Here’s what those regions look like:
The plan divides the reopening process into five different phases. Based on the rate of infection of people being tested and strain on the health care system in each region, certain businesses will be allowed to reopen and larger groups will be allowed.
As of May 5 most regions are in “Phase 2” of the plan, according to the state, as they’ve see a flattening in the rate of infection. In order to progress to the next phase, not only does the number of COVID-19 cases and patients need to continue to flatten, but also widespread testing and contact tracing will have to be in place.
At that point, gatherings of 10 or fewer people would be allowed and businesses like manufacturing, offices, retail, barbershops and salons could reopen with limited capacity. The soonest that could happen anywhere in the state is May 29, according to Prtizker.
“There’s no modern precedent for this. We are quite literally writing the playbook as we go,” Pritzker said.
Additionally, the plan outlines conditions under which a region could actually move back to a prior phase. A sudden increase in the rise of cases caused by a widespread outbreak or flood of hospital admissions could lead to restrictions being reinstated.
Insofar as how long it could take to get to Phase 5 where the economy is fully re-opened, Pritzker said Tuesday it likely won’t happen until there is a vaccine or widespread immunity. Experts say that could take a year or more.
So that means face masks and social distancing will remain the norm, and there likely will not be any conventions, festivals or large events in the state until then.
Here’s how the phases are described by the state in a release:
Phase 1 – Rapid Spread: The rate of infection among those tested and the number of patients admitted to the hospital is high or rapidly increasing. Strict stay at home and social distancing guidelines are put in place and only essential businesses remain open. Every region has experienced this phase once already and could return to it if mitigation efforts are unsuccessful.
Phase 2 – Flattening: The rate of infection among those tested and the number of patients admitted to the hospital beds and ICU beds increases at an ever slower rate, moving toward a flat and even a downward trajectory. Non-essential retail stores reopen for curb-side pickup and delivery. Illinoisans are directed to wear a face covering when outside the home, and can begin enjoying additional outdoor activities like golf, boating and fishing while practicing social distancing.
Phase 3 – Recovery: The rate of infection among those tested, the number of patients admitted to the hospital, and the number of patients needing ICU beds is stable or declining. Manufacturing, offices, retail, barbershops and salons can reopen to the public with capacity and other limits and safety precautions. All gatherings limited to 10 or fewer people are allowed. Face coverings and social distancing are the norm.
Phase 4 – Revitalization: The rate of infection among those tested and the number of patients admitted to the hospital continues to decline. All gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed, restaurants and bars reopen, travel resumes, child care and schools reopen under guidance from the IDPH. Face coverings and social distancing are the norm.
Phase 5 – Illinois Restored: With a vaccine or highly effective treatment widely available or the elimination of any new cases over a sustained period, the economy fully reopens with safety precautions continuing. Conventions, festivals and large events are permitted, and all businesses, schools, and places of recreation can open with new safety guidance and procedures in place reflecting the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.