FILE - J.B. Pritzker, Springfield, Virus Outbreak Illinois

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker answers questions from the media during his daily press briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic from his office at the Illinois State Capitol, Friday, May 22, 2020, in Springfield, Ill.

(The Center Square) – Hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans could be gearing up to go back to work as consumers will be able to dine-in at restaurants, go to movie theaters and workout indoors at gyms starting Friday.

New guidelines released Monday also allow for youth sports, but with audience restrictions. Masks still will be required, the governor said.

Illinois has been under some of the most restrictive COVID-19 mitigation policies in the nation since mid-March. Pritzker first closed dine-in restaurants and bar activity on March 16. Schools and other businesses deemed non-essential were closed beginning March 20. Weeks later, Pritzker unveiled his “Restore Illinois” reopening plan.

In that time, the state conducted nearly 1.4 million COVID-19 tests and discovered 136,762 positive cases. There have been more than 6,600 COVID-19-related deaths, according to public health officials. Also in that time, more than 1.3 million Illinoisans have filed for unemployment benefits.

“Over the last four months, Illinoisans have pulled together with the common mission of keeping each other safe,” Pritzker said in a statement. “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 of the Restore Illinois plan.”

Pritzker said his COVID-19 restrictions were put in place to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed by a surge of COVID-19 patients. The latest public health metrics have all four of the regions in the governor’s plan with ICU beds between 43 percent and 56 percent availabe.

“Science and data are the overarching guardrails for how Illinois will keep moving forward,” Pritzker said Monday. “By continuing to wear face coverings and following the guidance from health experts we can continue to safely reopen our economy and move forward together.”

The governor’s office outline for Phase 4 includes limits on the size of gatherings. The existing limit is no more than 10 people. In Phase Four, gatherings will be limited to 50 people or fewer.

“This expanded gathering limit extends to key activities like meetings, events, and funerals,” the administration said.

Other guidelines from the governor’s announcement:

  • Meetings and events: Venues and meeting spaces can resume with the lesser of up to 50 people OR 50% of overall room capacity. Multiple groups are permitted given facilities have space to appropriately social distance and can limit interaction between groups. This includes activities such as conferences and weddings.
  • Indoor and Outdoor recreation: Revised guidelines to allow select indoor recreation facilities (e.g., bowling alleys, skating rinks), as well as clubhouses to reopen. Indoor recreation to operate at lesser of 50 customers OR 50% of facility capacity with outdoor recreation allowing group sizes of up to 50, and permitting multiple groups given facilities have space to appropriately social distance and can limit interaction between groups; concessions permitted with restrictions.
  • Indoor Dining: Indoor dining can reopen with groups of 10 or less, with tables spaced 6 feet apart in seated areas and with standing areas at no more than 25% of capacity.
  • Museums: Can reopen with no more than 25% occupancy, and with interactive exhibits and rides closed; guided tours should be limited to 50 people or fewer per group; museums should have a plan to limit congregation via advance ticket sales and timed ticketing; concessions permitted with restrictions.
  • Zoos: Can reopen with no more than 25% occupancy, and with interactive exhibits, indoor exhibits, and rides closed; guided tours should be limited to 50 people or fewer per group; zoos should have a plan to limit congregation via advance ticket sales and timed ticketing; concessions permitted with restrictions.
  • Cinema and Theatre: Indoor seated theaters, cinemas, and performing arts centers to allow admission of the lesser of up to 50 guests OR 50% of overall theater or performance space capacity (applies to each screening room); outdoor capacity limited to 20% of overall theater or performance space capacity; concessions permitted with restrictions.
  • Outdoor seated spectator events: Outdoor spectator sports can resume with no more than 20% of seating capacity; concessions permitted with restrictions.
  • Film production: Allow no more than 50% of sound stage or filming location capacity; crowd scenes should be limited to 50 people or fewer.

Industries with revised guidelines in Phase 4, according to the governor’s office:

  • Youth and Recreational Sports: Revised guidelines allow competitive gameplay and tournaments; youth and recreational sports venues can operate at 50% of facility capacity, 20% seating capacity for spectators, and group sizes up to 50 with multiple groups permitted during practice and competitive games given venues have space to appropriately social distance and can limit interaction between groups; concessions permitted with restrictions.
  • Health and fitness centers: Revised guidelines allow gyms to open at 50% capacity and allow group fitness classes of up to 50 people with new safety guidelines for indoors, with multiple groups permitted given facilities have space to appropriately social distance and can limit interaction between groups.
  • Day camps: Water-based activities permitted in accordance with IDPH guidelines; no more than 50% of facility capacity with group size of no more than 15 participants in a group, unless participants changing weekly.

“In all, more than 150 businesses and regional partners were consulted on the guidelines developed with IDPH to ensure alignment with the State’s Restore Framework and the latest public health data,” the governor’s office said.

Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other statewide issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience, and previously hosted “Bishop On Air,” a morning-drive current events talk show.