Phase 4 of reopening: What you need to know, and what doctors warn
As the state makes a giant leap forward Friday when movie theaters reopen, youth sports resume and other activities curtailed by COVID-19 return with restrictions, health experts warn residents to take it slow.
The reopening momentum intensified Monday when Gov. J.B. Pritzker released guidelines for residents, business and industries to shift into Phase 4, or Revitalization, of a four-region, five-phase reopening plan.
"Science and data are the overreaching guardrails for how Illinois will keep reaching forward," Pritzker said. "By staying home and practicing social distancing, the rate of new COVID-19 cases continues to drop and each region throughout the state is prepared to move to Phase 4."
Illinois is meeting all the health metrics, including declining hospitalizations and a 2% average positivity rate for COVID-19 testing, that will propel it out of the Phase 3 limitations.
But don't toss your face mask, given that COVID-19 is spread mainly through droplets when people sneeze, said physician Michael Bauer.
"It is not all fine. It is not back to normal," Bauer said. "Everyone wants it to be, but we are still in the midst of this pandemic."
The Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital medical director, for one, doesn't plan to watch a movie anytime soon, for example.
"To me, personally, I would have no desire to sit in an indoor space like that," Bauer said.
The Phase 4 guidelines also allow people to gather in groups of 50 or less, dine indoors, visit museums and zoos, and swim at pools -- but all with Illinois Department of Public Health caveats.
Bauer said he personally won't be eating indoors at a restaurant in Phase 4, but for people who opt in, be "a keen observer," he advised. "Are the tables physically distanced to a minimum of 6 feet apart? How crowded is it?"
In the coming weeks, 400,000 Illinoisans are expected to return to work, officials estimated.
But at Edward Hospital in Naperville, doctors are seeing a trend of COVID-19 cases involving patients who were infected at workplaces, Edward's Medical Director for Infection Control and Prevention Jonathan Pinsky said.
An eight-hour day prolongs exposure to co-workers' germs, so "if you go back to work, wear a mask and make sure other people are wearing a mask, too," Pinsky said. At lunch, he typically eats solo and recommends others avoid socializing over a meal in the office cafe.
The nuances of the guidelines allow most of Classic Cinemas' facilities to reopen, but not its iconic Tivoli Theater in Downers Grove. Rules allow 50 people or 50% overall capacity per theater, whichever is less.
"It is what it is," Classic Cinemas owner Chris Johnson said. Opening the Tivoli's 1,000-seat auditorium for 50 people isn't feasible. But the company's other cinemas with multiple screens will light up in Elk Grove Village, Elmhurst, St. Charles and other locations Friday.
Social distancing and mask rules apply, but "in these COVID-19 times, everyone gets the drill," Johnson said.
Here's a look at some of the guidelines:
• For meetings and events: Groups can assemble up to either 50 people or 50% of the capacity of the room, whichever is less. This includes conferences and weddings.
• Indoor dining can resume, but parties must be 10 or less and tables must be spaced 6 feet apart. Standing areas at bars are permitted but with physical distancing. Guests should wear masks while waiting for a table, when ordering and until they are served.
• For youth sports: Group sizes of 50 or less are permitted including players, coaches and referees. Athletes should wear masks but not when exercising. Spectators are allowed but at 20% capacity of the seating area. Spectators should wear masks when entering and exiting but can remove them when eating or drinking, or if outside and separate from other people.
• Museums and zoos can reopen but with 25% of normal occupancy. Interactive exhibits and rides are closed. Guided tours are limited to groups of 50 or fewer.
• Movie theaters, cinemas and performing arts centers can serve up to 50 people or 50% overall capacity, whichever is less. Patrons must wear masks except when seated. Social distancing of 6 feet or more must be maintained between each party.
• Select indoor recreation, such as bowling, can reopen following the rules of 50 or fewer individuals or 50% of overall capacity with social distancing.
• Water parks and recreational swimming will be allowed, but Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines will apply.
• Health and fitness centers and gyms may open at 50% capacity. Group fitness classes of up to 50 people are allowed. Members should wear masks when they are not exercising. Equipment like weights should be cleaned after use by members.
• For day camps, "water-based activities are permitted but only at 50% of facility capacity with group size of no more than 15 participants in a group," the guidelines state.