Pritzker unveils regional, phased-in plan to reopen Illinois
Gov. JB Pritzker unveiled on Tuesday a regional, five-phase plan detailing how the state may reopen during the new coronavirus pandemic, as state officials also announced the highest single-day number of deaths.
The “Restore Illinois” plan divides the state into four regions: northeast Illinois, north-central Illinois, central Illinois and southern Illinois. The state is currently in the second of five phases, which Pritzker said are broken down by metrics set by existing data and science on the virus.
“Restore Illinois is a public health plan to safely reintroduce the parts of our lives that have been put on hold in our fight against COVID-19,” he said. “This is also a data-driven plan that operates on a region-by-region basis, a recognition that reality on the ground looks different in different areas of our state.”
The hope is some regions can move to phase three by next month, officials said. Under the phase, which can occur after a stabilization and decline in infection rates and hospitalizations, manufacturing, offices, retail, barbershops and salons would be allowed to reopen to the public with capacity and other limits and safety precautions.
Gatherings would be limited to no more than 10 people, and face coverings and masks would still be required during public trips when social distancing is not available.
To move to phase three, a region must have no higher than a 20 percent positivity rate for COVID-19. That number may also not increase by more than 10 percentage points over a 14-day period. Other restrictions include no overall increase in hospital admissions for 28 days for COVID-19 symptoms and available surge capacity at hospitals.
Phase four, which occurs with a continued decline in the rate of infection among those surveillance tested and the number of patients admitted to the hospital, would allow public gatherings of up to 50 people. Restaurants and bars could reopen, as could child care and schools under guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The final phase, a full reopening of the economy, would occur when a vaccine or highly effective treatment is widely available, or if there has been an elimination of any new cases over a sustained period.
As the pandemic continues, Pritzker said he is willing to change the plan to match new information or potential treatments for coronavirus.
“I’m not afraid to redesign the playbook if the rules change,” he said.
Pritzker told reporters the regions are based on a previous Illinois Department of Public Health plan for emergency medical services. They’re also based on hospital bed availability and the ability to manage a surge in healthcare needs.
Tuesday’s plan was revealed the same day that officials announced an additional 176 COVID-related deaths, the highest single-day number since the pandemic began. It comes a day after Illinois reported its lowest single-day death count in two weeks.
The number passed the previous single-day high of 144 on April 28. Illinois’ total death count is now at 2,838.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike stressed that, despite efforts to slowly reopen the state, there still is no vaccine for the virus and that it remains as dangerous as it has since before the pandemic started.
“You are responsible for staying inside as much as possible,” she said. “The fact is that we are still battling the same virus that we were all so united and fighting just two months ago.”
There were 2,122 new COVID-19 cases reported Tuesday, bringing the state’s total number of cases to 65,962 in 97 counties.
A total of 346,286 tests have been completed.
Pritzker also told reporters that the state’s current R0 rate, or the number of new infections estimated to stem from a single case, tells them the current, long plateau in cases and deaths is not the new baseline level of infection. The state’s current R0 rate is roughly 1.2, down from a rate over 3 when the pandemic first started.
“We’ve seen directionally that coming down to a plateau in other places has led to a drop off on the proper side of the curve,” Pritzker said. “And so we anticipate that this is not much different than that.”
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