SPRINGFIELD — Gov. JB Pritzker on Tuesday announced a five-step, regional plan to reopen Illinois after months of restrictions put in place to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The governor’s Restore Illinois plan comprises of five phases that health regions — the 11 districts the Illinois Department of Public Health breaks the state into, grouped into four separate regions — can move through as data proves they are meeting certain thresholds.
When the novel coronavirus pandemic was beginning to affect the state, each region was in the first phase, called “rapid spread.” The number of residents testing positive for COVID-19, and being hospitalized for treatment, were increasing. Pritzker instituted stay-at-home and social distancing restrictions statewide.
Illinois is now in the second phase, called “flattening,” Pritzker said. The curve is leveling, the rate of infection is increasing more slowly and restrictions are being lifted. Each health region is observing this trend “to varying degrees,” the governor added.
“I know that we all have a passionate desire to return to the sense of normalcy that we felt before the world knew of COVID-19,” Pritzker said during his daily update in Chicago. “Here’s the truth, and I don’t like it any more than you: 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.”
The next step regions are progressing toward is “recovery” — the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases as well as the number of residents hospitalized would be stabilizing or declining. Once this criteria is met, offices, stores, hair salons and others could reopen with new capacity regulations implemented, and masks would still be mandated when out in public.
Gatherings of up to 50 people could resume and restaurants, bars and schools could reopen in the fourth phase. Called “revitalization,” it is signified by a continuing decrease in the number of confirmed cases.
The final, fifth phase would be reached when a vaccine or effective treatment is established, or when a region reports no new COVID-19 cases. At that point, regions could return to normal.
The plan was announced on the same day the IDPH reported the largest daily number of COVID-19-related deaths in Illinois. In 18 counties, 176 residents died over the past 24 hours, bringing the state’s total to 2,838.
Department Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike also reported 2,122 confirmed cases in the same period. There are now 65,962 COVID-19 cases in the state.