Pritzker expects state to fully reopen by June 11, with 'bridge' phase starting May 14
Illinois' businesses and other operations could fully reopen by June 11, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday.
Pritzker also said the state is on schedule to move to a "bridge phase" May 14 that creates greater capacity at most businesses and social gatherings.
The governor said a decline in new COVID-19 cases and stabilizing hospitalization numbers allow the state to move to the new phases.
Those phases could be delayed if infections and hospitalizations rise, however.
"We have all seen throughout this pandemic that this virus and its variants have proven to be unpredictable," Pritzker said. "Metrics that look strong today are far from a guarantee of how things will look a week, two weeks, a month from now."
Pritzker made the announcement at a news conference where he and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike announced COVID-19 vaccines are being made available to primary care physicians and other general practitioners around the state in an effort to get more people vaccinated.
"We're meeting people where they are and making sure they get their shots," Pritzker said.
Ezike said reluctant residents might be more likely to receive the vaccine from someone they know and trust, rather than at a mass vaccination site.
Vaccine demand has declined steeply over the past few weeks. Once averaging more than 132,000 a day, inoculations in Illinois are now barely averaging 70,000 a day, according to the most recent IDPH figures.
"We will not waste any opportunity to get someone vaccinated because we know this vaccine is a lifesaver," Ezike said.
Cases and hospitalizations continue to decline. The state is averaging 2,333 new COVID-19 cases a day over the past week, while the seven-day average number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients is slowly trickling down.
"Each day, people in Illinois and across the nation are still getting sick and being admitted to the hospital with this deadly virus," Pritzker said. "But there's a light that we can see at the end of the tunnel, and it's getting brighter and brighter as more people get vaccinated."
In the bridge phase, restaurants now allowed to operate at 25% capacity can move to 30% capacity indoors and 50% outdoors. Fitness centers, offices, personal care businesses and retailers will be allowed to move to 60% capacity, up from 50% today. Museums will be allowed 60% capacity from the current 25%.
Indoor social gatherings, like weddings or other parties, can move from a maximum of 50 people to as many as 250, while outdoor events will grow to as much as 500 people.
Spectator events, such as sporting events and theaters, will be allowed to move to 60% capacity, and zoos will be allowed to operate at 60% capacity as well.
There are no capacity limits in the final, fully reopened Phase 5.
In addition to the news about vaccines and reopening the economy, Pritzker said the state's finances are stronger than anticipated and he plans to add $350 million in school funding through the state's evidence-based funding formula.
Schools in areas with relatively low local property valuations will get a portion of the additional funds.
"This doesn't erase Illinois' structural budget problems," Pritzker said. "I remain committed to finding long-term, sustainable solutions that don't put the burden on working families who can least afford it."