(The Center Square) – Pandemic restrictions in Illinois will be further loosened next week, and the state could reopen nearly fully as early as June 11.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday the state will be entering the “Bridge Phase” on May 14, a transitional period between Phase 4 restrictions and fully opening in Phase 5.
“For restaurants and bars and retail and weddings and public gatherings, this means higher capacity limits and a very hopeful move toward full reopening,” Pritzker said.
The bridge to Phase 5 expands capacity to 60% for theaters, gyms, spectator events, offices, museums, and amusement parks. Mask requirements would stay in place until the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises otherwise.
In addition to the vaccination requirements which have been met, the requirements also included a decline in new cases, hospitalizations and daily mortality rates before further reopening.
The seven-day average of total hospitalizations has been slowly declining after peaking April 22 during a spring surge.
Pritzker also announced the state is making vaccine doses available to doctors' offices around the state.
“Over 1,000 offices have signed up to do this, and I am encouraging all interested providers to do the same,” Pritzker said. “We have the vaccine, all we need is the doctors.”
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said doctors' offices, including pediatricians, can sign up now to become eligible to receive doses. Federal approval of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 to 15 could possibly come next week.
When will the state fully reopen? Pritzker said Illinois could move into Phase 5, which removes nearly all COVID restrictions, as soon as June 11, barring a resurgence of the virus.
Earlier this week, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city is looking to open things up fully by July 4. Lightfoot also announced that the Chicago Auto Show, which was cancelled last year, will be back at McCormick Place July 15 through 19. Attendees will have to register in advance and fill out a health survey, but vaccines won’t be required. Lightfoot said the goal is to have no capacity limits in the city by July 4.