Masks anymore? Pritzker sets reopening guidelines as COVID-19 cases continue decline
As business owners throughout Illinois prepare to return to full operational capacity next week, the state's latest metrics for new COVID-19 cases continue to show steep declines.
For the first time since Illinois public health officials began tracking COVID-19 infections, the statewide daily case positivity rate is below 1%.
Of the 65,300 new test results released Friday, just 626 showed new infections of the virus, or 0.96%, according to Illinois Department of Public Health figures.
The state is averaging just 586 new cases a day over the last week. That's down 40% from the previous week and also the lowest rate in more than a year for that metric.
The new data aligns with Gov. J.B. Pritzker's plan to fully reopen businesses and eliminate many social gathering restrictions on June 11.
"Thanks to the hard work of residents across the state, Illinois will soon resume life as we knew it before -- returning to events, gatherings and a fully reopened economy, with some of the safety guidelines we've adopted still in place," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.
Pritzker released a series of those reopening guidelines Friday. While still urging unvaccinated residents to wear masks and practice social distancing, the state's reopening policies will allow businesses to operate at full capacity, eliminate size limits on social gatherings and allow those who have been vaccinated to go most places mask-free.
Even after the reopening, masks must still be worn at health care locations, in child care facilities, in congregate living settings, on public transportation and inside any private business that requires it, according to the state's guidelines.
State officials cited the rapidly declining positivity rates around the state, the drop in hospitalizations and the growing number of vaccinated residents.
"This pandemic has robbed us of many of our freedoms such as going to ballgames and concerts; celebrating graduations, weddings, and birthdays; going to dinner with friends; and even sharing a hug with loved ones we don't live with," said IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike. "The vaccine is giving us our freedoms back."
IDPH officials noted Friday that another 53,156 vaccine doses were administered, bringing the total number of shots given statewide to 11,427,833 over the nearly six months they've been available.
The state is reporting that 51% of Illinois adults have now been fully vaccinated, while 67% have had at least one dose of the vaccine.
Meanwhile, Illinois Department of Public Health officials announced 15 more COVID-19 deaths, as well as 626 new cases of the virus.
Since the outset of the pandemic, 22,880 Illinois residents have died and 1,384,365 have been infected, according to IDPH figures.
Hospitals around the state are treating 901 COVID-19 patients, IDPH data shows. Of those hospitalized, 247 are in intensive care.
While not completely eradicated, public health officials said levels of COVID-19 infection are low enough to warrant reopening the state at this time.
"We're at a point now where we're not concerned about the health system being threatened," said Chicago Department of Public Health Director Allison Arwady. "This is the time to open when you're on a significant decline like this."
The statewide seven-day case positivity rate, which helps health officials monitor the level of infection throughout Illinois, is at 1.3% -- also at its lowest point ever.
Case positivity is the percentage of new cases diagnosed from a batch of tests. A seven-day average is used to smooth out any anomalies in the daily reporting of those figures.