The state of Illinois is on track to enter Phase 5 of its reopening plan - which would mark a full reopening with no capacity limits - in July, officials announced Tuesday.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot shared the timeline in a joint statement Tuesday announcing the return of the Chicago Auto Show for the first time in more than a year.
Illinois is currently in Phase 4 of its reopening plan and must first enter what's known as the Bridge Phase before a full reopening in the final Phase 5, which would see all sectors of the economy fully reopened and no capacity limits, among other changes.
As "metrics continue to stabilize and decline, the state could soon move into the 'Bridge Phase' of the Restore Illinois Reopening Plan," Lightfoot and Pritzker's offices said in a joint statement. "Following a 28-day period of continued stability or decline in key COVID-19 metrics, the state would then move into Phase 5, with all capacity limits lifted. The State is on track to be in Phase 5 in July."
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During a news conference announcing the return of the Chicago Auto Show Tuesday, Lightfoot said the goal is to enter Phase 5 by July 4.
"Every day that our COVID-19 metrics continue to tick downward raises the day closer to be able to put this pandemic in the rearview mirror, and we are too close to accomplishing his mission to give up now," Lightfoot said. "Our goal, ladies and gentlemen, is to be fully open by July 4. I am working night and day toward this goal, as is our public health department, but we and I need you to continue to be on this journey with us and that means getting vaccinated now, as soon as possible. So I urge everyone to continue to follow the public health guidance, make sure that you take advantage of a life saving vaccine which is free and readily available all across the city."
Last week, Chicago announced changes to the current Phase 4 of its reopening plan, increasing capacity limits and allowing for a return of fans to the United Center and more as the city's COVID metrics improve and vaccinations increase.
Before Phase 5, Illinois will first have to move into the Bridge Phase that state officials unveiled in March. The new Bridge Phase between Phases 4 and 5 will allow for higher capacity limits at places like museums, zoos and spectator events as well as increased business operations during a transitional period between the current guidelines and a full reopening.
Chicago officials also said last week that if the city's reopening metrics "remain stable or continue to decrease for the next two weeks" and the city reaches criteria set by the state, Chicago will join Illinois in moving to the state's new Bridge Phase.
In order for Illinois to advance to the Bridge Phase, the entire state must reach a 70% first-dose vaccination rate for residents 65 and older, in addition to maintain the current required metrics of at least 20% ICU beds availability and holding steady on hospitalizations for COVID-19 or COVID-like illnesses, mortality rates and case rates over a 28-day monitoring period.
Officials said Tuesday that the state has vaccinated 55% of individuals 16 years and older and 79% of residents ages 65 and older - both well above the threshold to advance.
While the state has reached the vaccination metrics required to move from Phase 4 to the Bridge Phase, increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have prevented the state from moving into the new phase in recent weeks.
Illinois officials said Tuesday that since Chicago's announcement last week, the COVID-19 test positivity has continued to drop and is now under 5%.
“The trends are encouraging, but we must be cautious as we move forward,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement Tuesday. “As more venues reopen, it is critical that we increase the number of people who are vaccinated. Immunity is how we stop transmission of this virus, but we need greater community immunity and that requires as many of us as possible getting vaccinated as soon as possible.”