Will entering Phase 5 lift masking guidelines in Illinois and Chicago? The answer is not entirely, but it does bring with it some changes.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week released the guidelines for Phase 5 and what exactly it means for residents.
Under the new reopening stage, which begins Friday, the state will lift its outdoor mask requirement in schools in line with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the state's guidelines, upon entering Phase 5, fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
Illinois will continue to recommend face coverings for unvaccinated residents, however.
Regardless of vaccination status, masks will still be required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation; in transportation hubs, such as airports and train and bus stations; in congregate facilities such as correctional facilities, veterans’ homes, and long-term care facilities, group homes, and residential facilities; and in healthcare settings.
According to the governor, entry into Phase 5 "will mean businesses, large-scale events, conventions, amusement parks, and seated-spectator venues, among others, will be able to operate at full capacity for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic."
“After a tremendously challenging year, Illinois has now reached a defining moment in our efforts to defeat COVID-19,” Pritzker said. “Thanks to the hard work of residents across the state, Illinois will soon resume life as we knew it before – returning to events, gatherings, and a fully reopened economy, with some of the safety guidelines we’ve adopted still in place."
As of last Friday, Illinois had reached a test positivity rate of less than 2%, with more than half of the population fully vaccinated, and hospitalization metrics declining since early May.
“This pandemic has robbed us of many of our freedoms such as going to ball games and concerts, celebrating graduations, weddings, and birthdays, going to dinner with friends, and even sharing a hug with loved ones we don’t live with,” said Illinois Department of Public Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “The vaccine is giving us our freedoms back and allowing us to move to Phase 5. Let’s keep the vaccination momentum going so we can put this pandemic in the rearview mirror and not look back.”
Chicago will join the rest of the state in moving into Phase 5 Friday, with officials citing declining numbers of COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths statewide, along with increasing numbers of coronavirus vaccinations statewide.
"Because you've masked up, socially distanced and got vaccinated, we're now moving to Phase 5 on Friday, June 11 in alignment with the state. This means Chicago is scheduled to fully reopen," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot tweeted.
While the removal of occupancy limits and other rules represents a significant step forward in the COVID pandemic, state officials have cautioned residents that it is possible for the state to move back to previous phases in the following instances:
- If hospital admissions for COVID-19 illnesses increase to more than 150 hospitalizations per day over a 10-day monitoring period.
- If the number of COVID patients in hospitals climbs above 750 and stays there for more than 10 days.
- If the state’s mortality rate increases and goes above a 0.1 daily average.
- If ICU bed availability statewide drops below 20% over a 10-day monitoring period.