Phase 5 of Illinois' reopening plan was set to begin once a vaccine or highly effective treatment became widely available.
With the start of vaccinations for coronavirus in Illinois that day is inching closer, but according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker there's still a long ways to go.
"Today is the beginning of a process that allows us to move toward reopening the state entirely," Pritzker said. "It will take some time."
How much time?
"The length of time, you know, as you talk to the experts what they would say is the manufacturing process will take some time so they can deliver them as fast as they can," Pritzker said. "But months will go by here while we are working through the ACIP/CDC guidelines first for health care workers and those in longterm care facilities and then the many others that are in the various phases... until we get herd immunity. That's what we're all aiming for for the state of Illinois and the United States of America."
The first coronavirus vaccinations were administered in Illinois Tuesday, first in Chicago, then at a hospital in Peoria.
Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike were present to observe the vaccinations in Peoria, calling it a "very important day."
"Everyone has reason to be excited that we are at the beginning of the end," Ezike said.
She noted, however, that the first vaccines are only the start.
"It's very important that everyone understands you do need both vaccines," she said, referring to the booster dose people will need to get in the weeks after their first shot.
The Pfizer vaccine requires two shots given three weeks apart.
"It's an important step but there's still another step," she added. "I hope that all the people who are watching this have confidence that this is a vaccine that you should take as well."
In Chicago, the first doses were given to health care workers at Loretto Hospital just minutes earlier.
Dubbing the day "Vaccine Day," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said "we have finally and at long last officially taken our first steps in our long road toward COVID vaccination."
Chicago's top health official said the first vaccinations marked "the beginning of what will be the end of COVID-19" in the city, but cautioned the public that it will still be quite some time before the pandemic is over.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said she believes it would probably be about another year before the coronavirus is "in the rearview mirror."
"We've already been at this for nearly a year and I think we're going to be at it for probably another year by the time we really get to the point where this is in the rearview mirror," she said. "But it is within our power to keep this virus in control. You know the things that work - please continue to do them."
Hospitals in Chicago and across Illinois have been preparing to receive and administer the first doses to health care workers on the front lines of the pandemic after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved emergency use of Pfizer's vaccine last week.
The first shipment of Pfizer's vaccine arrived in Illinois on Monday, with thousands of doses now being processed to go to hospitals across the state, Pritzker said.
"I'm proud to report that Illinois’ first vaccine doses have arrived safely and are now being processed to go to our hospitals," Pritzker tweeted just after 1 p.m. on Monday "I was elated to witness our first shipment arrive at the Illinois Strategic National Stockpile and have great appreciation to those who made it possible."
Pritzker's office said the first shipment, delivered to the Illinois Strategic National Stockpile, contained approximately 43,000 doses of the vaccine.
Illinois officials said Chicago received a shipment from the federal government on Monday as well, one of five local health departments to receive direct shipments independent of the state.
The four others include: Cook County Department of Public Health, Lake County Health Department and Community Health Center, Madison County Health Department, and St. Clair County Health Department.