All regions on track to move to next phase of state’s reopening plan
All four Illinois regions are now meeting the metrics necessary to move to phase three of Gov. JB Pritzker’s plan to reopen the economy.
Pritzker confirmed during Thursday’s press conference that the northeast region, which includes Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, is on track to reopen for the next phase, which would allow manufacturing, offices, retail, barbershops and salons to reopen to the public with certain restrictions.
He cautioned that it was important to look at the numbers over multiple days.
“Remember that they need to go through a time period and there needs to be an averaging of those metrics during that time period,” Pritzker said.
To move to the next phase, a region must have no higher than a 20 percent positivity rate for COVID-19 and that number may 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.
The northeast region has been meeting all hospital metrics, such as hospital and ICU bed capacity and access to ventilators, but its testing positivity rate had been above the 20 percent cutoff.
The northeast region’s current testing positivity rate is now at 19.9 percent, a drop of 3.2 percent over the past two weeks.
Pritzker said Thursday the earliest any region can begin phase three is May 29. He said that is based on phase two beginning on May 1, and officials need to ensure that the hospitalization numbers and positivity rates remain stable during the partial reopening.
“We have to take a measure of how we’re doing within that phase so that we don’t have a surge that will overcome our healthcare system,” Pritzker said.
Not factored in is the city of Chicago, which unveiled its own five-phase plan to reopen its economy. While there are similarities in what metrics are used, such as hospital and ICU bed capacity, the city’s plan calls for additional measures to be met before it can move to the next phase.
Among them is the ability to test at least 5 percent of the city’s population per month and, at most, a 15 percent positivity rate for COVID-19 tests in the community and 30 percent for those in congregate settings over 14 days, as a rolling average.
State officials reported 138 more COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, bringing the state’s total to 3,928. An additional 3,239 COVID-19 cases were reported, bringing the state’s total to 87,937 cases in 99 counties.
A total of 512,037 tests have been completed. The statewide seven-day rolling positivity rate is 17 percent.
Pritzker also announced plans Thursday to offer free, online, skills-based training programs for those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
Starting next month, the state will offer 3,800 courses and 400 specializations will be offered through the online learning platform Coursera. Formal certification programs will also be available.
“It’s critical that our state does everything possible to help our residents get back to work, whether returning to positions they once held or with employers who are seeking to hire,” Pritzker said.
Nearly 73,000 Illinoisans filed unemployment claims last week, adding to the more than 1 million Illinoisans that have made claims since the pandemic began.
The state has also launched a new website to connect unemployed residents with available jobs. Pritzker said he is encouraging employers to take advantage of the site.
“Illinois won’t be restored until our workers and families have the opportunities and resources they need to build and fill in their lives, and I won’t rest until we see that mission through,” he said.
When asked by reporters about those who test positive but refuse to be hospitalized, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said they cannot force any individual to be hospitalized. She said local health departments will continue to track those individuals, and there will be contact tracing to identify anyone they may have contacted.
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