coronavirus illinois

Much of Illinois is On Track to Enter Phase 3 at End of May, But What About Chicago?

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has unveiled different guidelines for the city

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Much of Illinois is preparing to loosen restrictions and enter phase three of the state's five-phased reopening plan at the end of the month, but Chicago has its own plan.

Though the city sits within a region that is so far on track to reopen as early as May 29, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has unveiled different guidelines for the city.

Lightfoot said Monday that while she doesn't have "a precise timeline" for when Chicago might enter its phase three, "we're making definite progress in all the metrics."

"We are absolutely on track, we are making progress," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Monday.

Arwady said the city could be on track to begin loosening some restrictions in June.

"We're really thinking about June because if things keep going the way we are, we'll be in a good place," she said.

Lightfoot likened the city's reopening to slowly turning on a dimmer rather than flipping a switch.

"When it comes to the metrics of moving to phase three, such as hospital capacity, we're pretty far along," she said during a speech to the Economic Club of Chicago last week. "While others, such as case rate and testing positivity rates, still have a ways to go. The more stable our public health is the more stable and sustained our reopening will be. None of us want to see us taking steps back. Reopening could lead to re-closing if we are not patient, smart and diligent."

As of Monday, 12 days remained in Illinois' stay-at-home order, but the state's four health regions can begin entering phase three in as early as 11 days - if they meet the required metrics.

The four reopening regions — Northeast, North Central, Central and Southern — are based on the state's 11 hospital regions, which Gov. Pritzker said have been "on the books for decades."

In order to enter phase three, a region "will be required to have a positivity rate of 20% or less and an increase of no more than 10% over a 14-day period." The positivity rate is determined by using a 7-day rolling average to smooth volatility in the daily metrics, according to IDPH.

The Northeast region, which includes Cook County and collar counties, reported a positivity rate at 18.3% Monday — just under the threshold of 20% and a drop of 4.9% in the last two weeks.

At the same time last week, the region was not hitting the numbers required to enter phase three of the state's five-phased reopening plan.

While positivity rate is no doubt a major factor, it's not the only requirement to move the reopening process forward.

Additionally, a region must see stability or a decrease in hospital admissions for COVID-like illness across a 28-day period. All four regions have seen a dip in hospitalizations since May 1, according to state officials.

All four regions are also required to have the available surge capacity of at least 14% ICU beds, medical/surgical beds and ventilators. As of Monday, that requirement was also being met by all four health care regions.

The Northeast region remained on the edge of the metrics, however, with 17.2% of medical-surgical beds available and 18% of ICU beds not in use. The area remained strong with ventilator availability, however, reporting 61.8% on hand.

Other regions reported medical/surgical bed availability in excess of 40% and ICU capacity above at least 30%, nearly double the necessary metrics.

May 15 briefing: Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, discusses that latest coronavirus case information for Illinois.

Here's a look at the criteria Chicago must meet in order to enter phase three:

• COVID-19 Case Rate (over 14 days, as a rolling average):
o Declining rate of new cases, based on incidence and/or percent positivity
• Severe Outcome Rate (over 14 days, as a rolling average):
o Stable or declining rates of cases resulting in hospitalization, ICU admission, and/or death
• Hospital Capacity Citywide (over 14 days, as a rolling average):
o Hospital beds: <1800 COVID patients
o ICU beds: <600 COVID patients
o Ventilators: <450 COVID patients
• Testing Capacity:
o Test at least 5% of Chicago residents per month
• Testing Percent Positivity Rates (over 14 days, as a rolling average):
o Congregate: <30% positive tests
o Community: <15% positive tests
• Syndromic Surveillance (over 14 days, as a rolling average):
o Declining emergency department visits for influenza-like illness and/or COVID-like illness
• Case Investigation & Contact Tracing:
o Expanded system in place for congregate and community investigations and
contact tracing

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