An upward swing in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations prevented the state of Illinois from moving into a so-called “bridge phase” between Phase 4 and Phase 5 of the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan, but Gov. J.B. Pritzker says that residents could see a move to that new phase as soon as next week.
During a press availability Monday, Pritzker says that the state is in “decent shape” when it comes to hospitalization metrics, and that vaccination numbers are well within the range of being able to move the state forward into the Bridge Phase.
“If you look at all the hospital admissions data, it looks like we’re in decent shape and moving toward the Bridge Phase,” he said. “I believe that it may be next week.”
Melaney Arnold of the IDPH says that it is “difficult to estimate” when the state will move forward to the Bridge Phase, and says that there are still several metrics that officials are watching.
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“Right now the metric that is holding the state back is the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19,” Arnold said. “We have seen several days where the number of people in hospitals has decreased, indicating that we could move to the Bridge Phase, but it’s still a fluid situation.”
Arnold says that the state is also closely monitoring the mortality rate among COVID-19 patients, with a recent increase in deaths giving state health officials some cause for concern.
“We know that hospitalizations and deaths are lagging indicators, and are likely a reflection of the recent increases in cases,” Arnold said.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health’s website, the state of Illinois can move to the Bridge Phase when at least 70% of its residents who are 65 years of age or older have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Hospital ICU bed availability must be above 20%, and new COVID-19 hospital admissions, total patients in hospitals and death rates must not be on an upward swing over the preceding 28 days.
The state is easily past the vaccination threshold, with nearly 80% of residents 65 years of age or older having received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. The number of new cases statewide is on a continued decline after a surge forward in late March and early April, and new hospital admissions for COVID-19 have shown “no significant change” in the latest evaluation window, according to IDPH data.
One of the numbers still potentially posting a threat to moving to the Bridge Phase is the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, as the state says that number, while starting to steady, has still increased too much in the last 28 days to move forward.
The daily number of new deaths has also slowly increased, with 28 patients passing away over the last 24 hours. State officials say the number of new deaths is still within parameters to allow a move forward into Bridge Phase, but are closely monitoring the situation.
As of May 2, 1,963 patients are currently hospitalized due to the virus in Illinois. Fewer than 500 of those patients are in ICU beds, with 22% of ICU beds currently available statewide in the event of an uptick in serious cases of the virus.
Under the rules of the Bridge Phase, restaurants and bars would be able to increase their capacity to 30%. Health and fitness clubs would be able to bump up their capacity limits from 50% to 60% in indoor settings, as would offices, personal care facilities and retail shops.
Amusements parks could increase from 25% capacity to 60%, while festivals and general admission outdoor spectator events could double their available capacity from 15 people per 1,000 square feet to 30.
Social events that are held indoors could increase their capacity to 250, while outdoor events could welcome up to 500 guests under the bridge phase.
Spectator events in outdoor venues, including professional sporting events, could increase their capacity from 25% to 60% in the Bridge Phase.