chicago bridge phase

Illinois and Chicago Enter Bridge Phase, Marking Final Stage Before Full Reopening

Here's what you should know about the new phase and what's next for both the city and state

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Illinois and Chicago both enter the Bridge Phase Friday - a transition period aimed at bringing the city and state closer to a full reopening that will see capacity limits increased at places like museums, zoos, stadiums and more.

The long-awaited phase is the second-to-last stage of the Restore Illinois reopening plan, which ends with Phase 5, a period where all capacity limitations are lifted.

“Illinoisans have worked so hard over the past year and a half to keep their families and neighbors safe, and reaching Bridge Phase means that we’re closer than ever to a return to normalcy,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday. “To keep up this progress, I urge every eligible Illinoisan – now including 12 to 15-year-olds – to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

The Bridge Phase will allow for higher capacity limits at restaurants, bars, gyms, spectator events and more.

While both the city and state have announced plans to reach the Bridge Phase Friday, Chicago's restrictions will differ slightly from the state, though the city plans to join the state's guidelines in the coming weeks.

Currently in Phase 4 of its reopening plan, Illinois is preparing to enter the Bridge Phase at the end of this week, marking the start of a transitional period before the final Phase 5. So what does this all mean?

"Chicago’s Bridge Phase largely aligns with the state’s plan and, following standard protocol, we will update our plan to align fully with the state in two weeks if our metrics continue to remain stable or decline," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot's office announced.

Already Thursday, the city announced an expansion for vaccine exemptions on capacity limits in the city.

The Cubs and White Sox will also both increase capacity limits at Wrigley and Guaranteed Rate fields to 60% later this month.

So what changes between Phase 4 and the Bridge Phase? Here's a breakdown by category for Illinois:

  • Dining
    • Phase 4: Seated areas: Patrons ≥ 6 feet apart; parties ≤ 10, Standing areas: 25% capacity
      • In Chicago: Indoors: 50% capacity with no more than 100 people per space; table size ≤ 6, Outdoors: 6 feet between parties; table size ≤ 10
    • Bridge Phase: Seated areas: Patrons ≥ 6 feet apart; parties ≤ 10, Standing areas: 30% capacity indoors; 50% capacity outdoors
      • In Chicago: 75% capacity with at least 6 ft. between parties; table size ≤ 10; Seating at bars/counters limited to 6 per party indoors and outdoors, Standing areas limited to 25% capacity
  • Health and fitness
    • Phase 4: 50% capacity, Group fitness classes of 50 or fewer indoors or 100 or fewer outdoors
    • Bridge Phase: 60% capacity, Group fitness classes of 50 or fewer indoors or 100 or fewer outdoors
  • Offices
    • Phase 4: 50% capacity
    • Bridge Phase: 60% capacity
  • Personal care
    • Phase 4: 50% capacity
    • Bridge Phase: 60% capacity
  • Retail and service counter
    • Phase 4: 50% capacity
    • Bridge Phase: 60% capacity
  • Amusement parks
    • Phase 4: 25% capacity
    • Bridge Phase: 60% capacity
  • Festivals and general admission outdoor spectator events
    • Phase 4: 15 people per 1,000 sq. ft.
    • Bridge Phase: 30 people per 1,000 sq. ft.
  • Flea and farmers markets
    • Phase 4: 25% capacity or 15 people per 1,000 sq. ft.
    • Bridge Phase: Indoor: 15 people per 1,000 sq. ft., Outdoor: 30 people per 1,000 sq. ft.
  • Film production
    • Phase 4: 50% capacity
    • Bridge Phase: 60% capacity
  • Meetings, conferences and conventions
    • Phase 4: Venue with capacity < 200 persons: Lesser of 50 people or 50% capacity *, Venue with capacity ≥ 200 persons: Lesser of 250 people or 25% capacity
    • Bridge Phase: Lesser of 1,000 people or 60% capacity
  • Museums
    • Phase 4: 25% capacity
    • Bridge Phase: 60% capacity
  • Recreation
    • Phase 4: Indoor: Lesser of 50 people or 50% capacity, Outdoor: Maximum groups of 50; multiple groups permissible
    • Bridge Phase: Indoor: Lesser of 100 people or 50% capacity, Outdoor: Maximum groups of 100; multiple groups permissible
  • Social events
    • Phase 4: Indoor: Lesser of 50 people or 50% capacity, Outdoor: Lesser of 100 people or 50% capacity
    • Bridge Phase: Indoor: 250 people, Outdoor: 500 people
  • Spectator events (ticketed and seated)
    • Phase 4: Indoor venue with capacity < 200 people: Lesser of 50 people or 50% capacity, Outdoor venue or indoor venue with capacity ≥ 200 people: 25% capacity
    • Bridge Phase: 60% capacity
  • Theaters and performing arts
    • Phase 4: Indoor venue with capacity < 200 persons: Lesser of 50 or 50% capacity, Outdoor venue or indoor venue with capacity ≥ 200 persons: 25% capacity
    • Bridge Phase: 60% capacity
  • Zoos
    • Phase 4: 25% capacity, Lesser of 50 or 50% at indoor exhibits
    • Bridge Phase: 60% capacity

Illinois is expected to fully reopen and enter Phase 5 of its COVID reopening plan on June 11, "barring any significant reversals in our key COVID-19 statewide indicators."

Phase 5 would see all sectors of the economy fully reopened and no capacity limits, though Pritzker noted that the state will continue following mask guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC released new guidelines Thursday allowing fully vaccinated people to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings. Pritzker said he plans to revise his executive orders to sync up Illinois and new guidelines.

"This good news comes with a caveat. We have all seen throughout this pandemic that this virus and its variants have proven to be unpredictable," Pritzker said. "Metrics that look strong today are far from a guarantee of how things will look a week, two weeks, a month from now. We saw that last August and again in March."

Speaking at an event alongside Pritzker Monday, Lightfoot said she hopes Chicago can fully reopen by June 11, but she didn't commit to a specific date.

"We're headed in the right direction," the mayor said. "But everything about this pandemic has to have an asteroid of caution, because of the twists and turns, and as the governor and doctor said, we've got to get people vaccinated, so that we can get ahead of these variants."

Last week, Lightfoot revealed Chicago was on track to be "fully open" by the Fourth of July holiday and said such a shift will take place when the city sees "continued improvement in COVID metrics and more widespread vaccine uptake."

What Would Cause the City or State to Pull Back Reopening Plans?

Under the guidelines previously released, Illinois could revert back to a previous phase in its reopening plan if there is a resurgence in the pandemic. That would be measured by an unspecified "increasing trend" in Illinois' case rate as well as one of the following, measured over a 10-day monitoring period:

  • Hospital admissions for COVID-19 like illness trend increasing and above 150 daily average
  • COVID-19 patients in the hospital trend increasing and above 750 daily census
  • Mortality rate trend increasing and above 0.1 daily average
  • ICU bed availability < 20%
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