SPRINGFIELD — Following weeks of steady decreases in new positive COVID-19 cases and with more than 67 percent of residents age 18 and older receiving their first vaccine dose, Gov. J.B. Pritzker is releasing guidelines for Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois plan, which will go into effect on June 11 and marks a full reopening of all businesses and activities.
This guidance will mean businesses, large-scale events, conventions, amusement parks, and seated-spectator venues, among others, will be able to operate at full capacity for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The state is also lifting the outdoor mask requirement in schools in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control.
This guidance comes as Illinois has recently reached a test positivity rate of less than 2 percent, more than half of the population has been fully vaccinated, and key hospitalization metrics have been declining since early May.
“After a tremendously challenging year, Illinois has now reached a defining moment in our efforts to defeat COVID-19,” said Pritzker. “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. As we fully reopen, this administration remains laser focused on ensuring a strong recovery for our small businesses and communities. Our FY22 budget invests $1.5 billion in small business relief, tourism, job-creating capital projects and more and we look forward to getting these dollars to communities across our state as quickly as possible.”
Upon entering Phase 5, fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance. The state will continue to recommend masking for unvaccinated persons, and require it for all people while traveling on public transportation, in congregate settings, in health care settings, as well as in schools, day cares, and educational institutions pursuant to the Illinois Department of Public Health and CDC guidance. Businesses and local municipalities can put in place additional mitigations as they deem appropriate.
Under Phase 5, all sectors of the economy can resume at regular capacity. Phase 5 also marks the return of traditional conventions, festivals, and large events without capacity restrictions. Large gatherings of all sizes can resume across all industry settings, and Phase 5 removes requirements that businesses institute mandatory social distancing in seated venues as well as daily health screenings of employees and visitors. Businesses and venues should continue to allow for social distancing to the extent possible, especially indoors. Businesses and venues may also continue to put in place additional public health mitigations as they deem appropriate, including requiring face coverings.
“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 Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “The vaccine is giving us our freedoms back and allowing us to move to Phase 5. Let’s keep the vaccination momentum going so we can put this pandemic in the rearview mirror and not look back.”
While the entry to Phase 5 signals an end to business and activity specific guidance requiring social distancing, health screening and other required operational shifts, Illinois will continue to recommend face coverings for unvaccinated persons, as well as all individuals while on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation and in transportation hubs, such as airports and train and bus stations; in congregate facilities such as correctional facilities, veterans’ homes, and long-term care facilities, group homes, and residential facilities; and in healthcare settings.
In addition, the guidance for schools is updated to align with the CDC guidelines, including lifting the requirement for individuals to mask outdoors in most situations.
The state’s advancement to Phase 5 builds on last month’s announcement of the return of conventions and leisure travel to the state. Just last week McCormick Place announced its plans to reopen, bringing 122 events, 1,000 workers and an expected 1.9 million convention goers to their halls. Additionally, the state has recently launched a new tourism campaign to welcome out of state visitors back into communities, helping support a return to leisure activity as well as the important economic activity stimulated by Illinois’ iconic attractions, hotels and tourism businesses.
“The state’s move to Phase 5 next week marks a significant milestone in our efforts to bring businesses and workers back safely and will play a key role in getting the economy back on track,” said DCEO Acting Director Sylvia Garcia. “Under Gov. Pritzker’s leadership, we are making steady progress in stabilizing our businesses and communities hit hardest during the course of the pandemic. New investments in the Governor’s budget will ensure that the state continues to play a vital role in aiding in the emergency response, while laying the groundwork for a sustained economic recovery.”
Earlier this week the Governor announced another $1.5 billion in funds to be made available through the FY22 budget to support business grants, tourism recovery, workforce recovery, affordable housing, violence prevention, capital projects, and other investments throughout Illinois communities. This builds on the state’s record $580 million investment last year to deliver thousands of business grants through the Business Interruption Grants program, which provided emergency relief dollars to business grants and childcare providers in more than 98 counties statewide.
Businesses and communities can learn more about Phase 5 recommended public health practices by visiting IDPH’s website.
Pritzker’s interview with Capitol News Illinois can be heard on this week’s edition of Capitol Cast: