Reopening Plan Released As IL Death Toll Hits Highest 1-Day Total

ILLINOIS — At the daily news briefing Tuesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker introduced the framework for his “Restore Illinois” plan as the state reported the highest 24-hour death total yet with 176 deaths since Monday.

“Here’s the truth, and I don’t like it any more than you do,” Pritzker said. “Until we have a vaccine, or an effective treatment … the option of returning to normalcy doesn’t exist. We have to figure out how to live with COVID-19 until it can be vanquished.”

Restore Illinois is a five-phase, four-region plan guided by public health metrics designed to provide a framework for reopening businesses, education and recreational activities, a news release said.

The plan will be updated as effective treatments or vaccines are developed — and could move backward if the rate of new coronavirus cases and deaths shows a need for it.

“Science and data are our overarching guardrails for how we move forward,” Pritzker said Tuesday.

“Restore Illinois is a public health plan to safely reintroduce the parts of our lives that have been put on hold in our fight against COVID-19,” Pritzker said in a news release. “This is also a data-driven plan that operates on a region-by-region basis, a recognition that reality on the ground looks different in different areas of our state.”

The five-phase plan is based on regional healthcare capacity and takes into account the virus’ disparate impact on various regions of the state. The Illinois Department of Public Health has 11 Emergency Medical Services Regions that have traditionally guided its statewide public health work.

For the purposes of Restore Illinois, those 11 regions have been consolidated into four, each with the ability to independently move through a separate five-phase approach. The regions include: Northeast Illinois, North-Central Illinois, Central Illinois and Southern Illinois.

Here’s what the five phases entail:

Pritzker said Illinois was in phase 1 from mid-March to April. This phase includes rapid spread, and strict stay-at-home orders, and social distancing guidelines are put in place, with only essential businesses remaining open.

“We’ve been through this phase once, and no one wants to go backward,” Pritzker said.

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Phase 2: Where we are now

Phase 2, or the phase Illinois is in now, began on May 1, Pritzker said. This phase is known as the flattening phase, in which the rate of infection among those tested and the number of patients admitted to hospitals and using ICU beds increases at an ever slower rate, moving toward a flat and eventually downward trajectory. In this phase, non-essential retail stores can reopen for curbside pick-up and delivery. To varying degrees, every region is experiencing flattening as of early May, according to the release.

Phase 3: Barbershops, salons, offices, retail could reopen

Health care regions that reach certain thresholds over the next few weeks will be able to move to phase 3, Pritzker said. The earliest a region could move to phase 3 is May 29. For that to happen, a region must be at or under a 20 percent positive rate among those tested for coronavirus, and cases must increase by no more than 10 percentage points over a 14-day period; or a region must show no overall increase in cases as hospital stability is maintained. To enter phase 3, a regional must also maintain a surge threshold of 14 percent availability of hospital beds, ICU beds and ventilators.

In phase 3, face coverings and social distancing are the norm, but manufacturing, offices, retail, barbershops and salons can reopen to the public with limited capacity and other precautions. Gatherings of 10 people or fewer will be allowed.

The rate of infection among those tested, the number of patients admitted to the hospital and the number of patients needing ICU beds must remain stable or decline in this phase.

Phase 4: Bars and restaurants could reopen, gatherings of up to 50 allowed

Phase 4 will include a declining number of patients admitted to the hospital and a declining rate of infection, according to the Restore Illinois plan. Gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed, restaurants and bars could reopen, travel resumes and childcare and schools could reopen with limitations and precautions.

Phase 5: A new normal

The last phase, phase 5, is known as “Illinois Restored.”

“With a vaccine or highly effective treatment widely available or the elimination of any new cases over a sustained period, the economy fully reopens with safety precautions continuing,” a news release states.

In this phase, conventions, festivals and large events are permitted, and all businesses, schools and places of recreation can open with new safety guidance and procedures in place.

Under the Restore Illinois plan, health metrics could also indicate that the state should return to a prior phase or move backward. IDPH will be closely monitoring key metrics to identify new growth in cases and hospitalizations, Pritzker said.

“Moving backward is honestly the last thing that anyone wants to do,” he said but stressed that “swift action will be taken” if necessary.

“There is no modern-day precedent for this. We are literally writing the playbook as we go,” Pritzker said. “I’m not afraid to redesign the playbook if the rules change.”

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