Illinois is poised to advance to the “bridge phase” of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan, which would allow for higher capacities at some large venues and events.
Public health officials on Thursday reported another promising round of coronavirus infection numbers, meaning Illinois could soon see a further loosening of pandemic restrictions.
Another 1,778 residents were confirmed to carry the virus among the latest 96,296 tests processed by the Illinois Department of Public Health, lowering the average statewide positivity rate to 3%.
That figure hasn’t been lower since March 27, suggesting the virus is spreading at its slowest pace in nearly six weeks.
And with the latest 99,599 COVID-19 shots that went into Illinois arms Wednesday, more than a third of the state population is now fully vaccinated. More than 60% have gotten at least one dose.
Those numbers have Illinois poised to advance to the “bridge phase” of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan, which would allow for higher capacities at some large venues and events. On Monday, the governor suggested that could happen within days.
“I think the common view is that Illinois has weathered the storm well, that we’ve seen what’s happened in Michigan, and that hasn’t happened in Illinois — thank God,” Pritzker said then. “We look at all of those variants — I talked to the experts about this — I think everybody feels like we’re in a decent position — again, following the metrics — we believe that we’ll be able to move to the bridge phase.”
Illinois had been set to get to the bridge phase in mid-March until a rise in cases threw the state off track.
The intermediate stage devised by Pritzker’s office before a full reopening allows museums, amusement parks and zoos to increase capacity from 25% to 60%. Additionally, festivals and general admission outdoor events will be able to seat 30 people per 1,000 square feet. Meetings, conferences and conventions will see their capacity limit increase to either 1,000 people or 60% — whichever is less — with the same applying to theaters and performing arts venues.
To get there, at least 70% of Illinois seniors must have received at least one vaccine dose, with the state maintaining at least 20% availability for intensive care hospital beds while keeping hospital admissions, case rates and death rates steady or declining for 28 days.
About 85% of Illinois seniors have now gotten a shot, and most of those COVID-19 metrics have been falling for 24 straight days.
New COVID-19 cases by day
Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times
Source: Illinois Department of Public Health
Pritzker and Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike were scheduled to deliver a COVID-19 update Thursday afternoon.
The governor hasn’t set a date for when the state could fully reopen, but has said he’s “optimistic” Illinois could shoot for the July 4 reopening that Mayor Lori Lightfoot is targeting for Chicago.
Despite the progress, the virus is still causing grief across the state. Officials reported 40 more COVID-19 deaths, including a man in his 30s from McLean County in central Illinois. The state’s death toll is up to 22,136 among more than 1.3 million residents who have tested positive over the past 14 months.
And vaccine demand is falling sharply statewide. The state is now averaging just 70,063 shots given per day over the past week, a rate that has fallen almost in half since April 12.
Vaccines are free and readily available on a walk-up basis at government-run mass vaccination sites as well as many Walgreens, Walmart and CVS pharmacies.
For help finding an appointment in Chicago, visit zocdoc.com or call (312) 746-4835.
For suburban Cook County sites, visit vaccine.cookcountyil.gov or call (833) 308-1988.
To find providers elsewhere, visit coronavirus.illinois.gov or call (833) 621-1284.