The state of Illinois will open in five phases, according to a plan announced by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Read the governor's full plan below.
My fellow Illinoisans – In just the span of two months, we have seen the world as we knew it turned on its head by an invisible enemy. We’ve been reminded every day of the preciousness of our collective health.
And most of all, we have seen what it means for the Land of Lincoln, nearly 13 million strong, to pull together with the common mission of keeping each other safe until we can put this pandemic behind us. And the people of our state have proven your mettle. You remain a testament to the very best of humanity – by standing up for each other in the hardest of times.
Under any circumstances, it would be phenomenally difficult to make the sacrifices that people have made in response to COVID-19 – but fighting an unseen enemy with no firm end date and no parameters requires amazing fortitude and stamina.
In as much as we can point to the success of having saved thousands of lives because of that fight – we also carry the grief of having lost more than 2,800 Illinoisans to this virus. Those are our grandparents, our loved ones, our friends.
This is a very real and terrible enemy that has forever altered families here at home and across the nation. When we talk about “what’s next,” we cannot forget those we have lost, and those we will lose in the days, and weeks, and months ahead.
I know we all have a passionate desire to return to the sense of normalcy we felt before the world knew of COVID-19. Here’s the truth – and I don’t like it any more than you do – until we have a vaccine, or an effective treatment, or enough widespread immunity that new cases fail to materialize – the option of returning to normalcy doesn’t exist.
That means we have to figure out how to live with COVID-19 until it can be vanquished – and to do so in a way that best supports our residents’ health and our healthcare systems, and saves the most lives.
With that very much in mind, I want to introduce you to our framework for moving forward: Restore Illinois is a public health plan to safely reintroduce the parts of our lives that have been put on hold in our fight against COVID-19.
Science and data are our overarching guardrails for how we move forward – and within those guardrails I’ve listened to people from across the state and the nation about what can be done to put us on a path toward normalcy. I’ve asked non-profit organizations and school leaders and businesses for their best ideas. I’ve spoken with kids and parents about how to make sure there is summer fun. I’ve heard from Democrats and Republicans, mayors and members of our General Assembly and congressional delegation about what their constituents are telling them. While there’s no feasible way to talk to every single official in the state of Illinois, I have made it a priority to listen to, and read the plans submitted from a widely representative number of folks. And many of those ideas are in the Executive Order I issued last week, and many more are in the plan I present to you today.
Many members of the General Assembly proposed a regional approach to reopening. Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady and his COVID-19 Caucus suggested using our EMS regions to shape a reopening plan – indeed that’s the structure of the plan I present today.
Legislators from Metro East like Senator Chris Belt and Representatives LaToya Greenwood and Jay Hoffman suggested we re-open drive-in theaters – these long-loved, entertainment venues are an old way of doing things made new again – and they can now operate under our most recent Stay at Home order.
The Legislative Latino Caucus recommended strengthening the COVID-19 safety protocols in manufacturing and our food supply chains to help keep workers out of harm’s way.
Mayor Joe Judge of Mount Carmel was one of the earliest leaders to recommend the expansion of elective surgeries in regions where hospital capacity is available.
The House GOP’s Women’s Caucus were right to suggest ensuring the availability of non-emergent health services, like mammograms, so these potentially lifesaving procedures don’t have to be put off any longer.
Mayor Jim Langfelder of Springfield offered early support for a grab and-go pick-up policy at retail businesses – an option now available to these businesses under my May 1st executive order.
Representative André Thapedi and other Black Caucus members requested we bring more medical professionals into the black community, which has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 – which we’ve worked to do by expanding the healthcare workforce with retirees and out-of-state workers.
Many regional and municipal reopening approaches have been submitted to me – such as the West Central Illinois plan from Adams County Chairman Kent Snider and Quincy Mayor Kyle Moore, or the consultations I’ve had with Peoria’s House Democratic Leader Jehan Gordon-Booth and Mayor Jim Ardis – as well as the many great ideas I hear from my regular conversations with other key stakeholders like Brad Cole at the Illinois Municipal League. In short: this data-driven plan follows the best epidemiological recommendations, but it’s also inspired by people across our state who carry real passion to make sure that their communities can begin thriving again even in the face of this pandemic.
This is also a regional plan. We are one Illinois, but we are also one Illinois made up of 60,000 square miles – and reality on the ground looks different in different areas of our state. So moving forward with Restore Illinois, we are looking at the state as four regions, each of which can move through phases at different times: Northeast Illinois; North-Central Illinois; Central Illinois; and Southern Illinois.
To be clear, these regions were not arbitrarily selected – these reflect the IDPH Emergency Medical Service regions that have existed for decades, the same regions that set parameters for ambulance drivers and hospital collaborations. Using the existing medical regional breakdown allows our public health professionals to manage and monitor capacity in an existing framework.
Restore Illinois operates with five phases, beginning with Phase 1 where we saw a state of “Rapid Spread” and needed to impose our original Stay at Home order, and ending with Phase 5 and a fully reopened economy in a post-COVID-19 world.
Let’s begin with Phase 1 – or where we were from early March to April 30, when Illinois moved to minimum essential operations to bend the curve, curtail the rapid spread of the virus, acquire necessary protective and healthcare equipment, and give us time to expand hospital capacity. We’ve been through this phase once, and no one wants to go backward.
Then there’s the phase we’re in now, Phase 2 – the phase we entered into with the new May 1st modified Stay at Home Order. Many of our Phase 2 mitigations are similar to Phase 1, but adjustments were made to offer flexibility where public health experts told us we could.
That’s where we’ve been and where we are. So what’s next?
Healthcare regions that meet certain thresholds over the next few weeks will be able to move to Phase 3. At that point, with face coverings as the norm, non-essential manufacturing and other non essential businesses can reopen, in accordance with safety guidance. Telework, wherever possible, is strongly encouraged. Barbershops and salons can reopen. Health and fitness clubs can offer outdoor classes and one-on-one personal training – all in accordance with DPH safety guidance. The region’s state parks can open. Limited child care and summer programs can operate with DPH guidance. All public gatherings of 10 people or fewer can now take place.
And I want to stress this point: Even as businesses reopen, employers should do everything in their power to provide remote accommodation for older and COVID-vulnerable employees.
In Phase 4, a region would need to see continued declines in its positivity rate and hospitalizations and maintain surge capacity – and if so, restaurants, bars, spas, cinemas, theaters, retail and health and fitness clubs can open with new capacity limits and DPH approved safety guidance. Schools, summer and fall programs, child care, and higher education can open with safety guidance, and all outdoor recreation programs will be allowed. Public gatherings in Phase 4 will be limited to 50 people, although this limit is subject to change up or down depending upon what the science tells us at that time.
IDPH will watch the identified health metrics closely to determine when regions have attained them so each can move from Phase 2 to Phases 3 and 4. More specifically the metrics are: 1) A region must be at or under a 20 percent test positivity rate and increasing by no more than 10 percentage points over a 14-day period, AND 2) A region must have either not had an overall increase OR must have maintained overall stability in hospital admissions for COVID-like illness in the last 28 days, AND 3) A region must maintain the availability of a surge threshold of 14 percent availability of ICU beds, Medical and surgery beds, and ventilators.
Because May 1st marked the beginning of Phase 2 in which we loosened and modified a number of mitigations, that is the first day for the 14- and 28-day measurement periods to begin – meaning the earliest a region can move to Phase 3 is May 29th. Changes to mitigation strategies in each phase will impact the data in each phase, so the assessment period begins when each new phase begins. IDPH will be tracking each of the four regions on these metrics and will make that data available online so the public can track it too.
Importantly: just as public health indicators will tell us when to move forward, at any time, they could also signal that we need to move backward. IDPH will be tracking metrics here as well. Moving backward is the last thing anyone wants to do, but if the virus begins to attack more people or the healthcare systems are heading toward becoming overwhelmed, swift action will need to be taken.
We have named Phase 4 “Revitalization” because it is in this phase that everyone in Illinois will be rebuilding what school and work will look like for a while, until we reach the other side of this pandemic.
The only way we can cross into Phase 5 – Illinois Restored, with all sectors of the economy running with completely normal operations – is with a vaccine, or a widely available and highly effective treatment, or with the elimination of any new cases over a sustained period. It brings me no joy to say this, but based on what the experts tell us and everything we know about this virus and how easily it spreads in a crowd: large conventions, festivals, and other major events will be on hold until we reach Phase 5.
I spent decades in business, so I understand the urge to try and flip the switch and reopen our entire economy. Here’s the problem: that switch simply does not exist with a virus that can’t currently be eliminated by medical science. And I won’t open the door to overwhelming our hospital system and potentially tens of thousands of additional deaths by exposing everyone to the virus today just because a loud but tiny minority would like to indulge in that fantasy.
On that note, I do want to touch on the enforcement of these phases.
At the state level, we don’t have the capacity or the desire to police the individual behavior of 12.7 million people. Enforcement comes in many forms, and our first and best option is to rely on Illinoisans working together to see each other through this pandemic. But we are also working with local law enforcement and have asked for their assistance to monitor for violations and consider taking actions when necessary, but that is not the option anyone prefers.
It’s important to remember that we put this plan together not only because the state needs a plan, but because mayors need a plan. Small business owners need a plan. Workers need a plan. Everyday Illinoisans need a plan.
But this plan, as vetted and data-driven as it is, is a plan for responding to and recovering from a global pandemic in the 21st century. There is no modern day precedent for this – we are quite literally writing the playbook as we go. The scientists learn more things about this virus every day, and we can and will make our Restore Illinois plan smarter as we move forward. I’m not afraid to redesign the playbook if the rules change.
I know this is difficult. This virus has uprooted lives and caused immeasurable hardship for millions in our state. And the weeks and months ahead will require our resilience, our patience, our persistence, and our sense of solidarity. I still believe that our strongest weapon against COVID-19 is one that this virus can never take away from us: the strength of the people who call Illinois home.
Throughout our history, Illinoisans have consistently raised the bar for the nation – and have done so graciously, humbly, and creatively. We were the first state to ratify two of the most important amendments to the U.S. Constitution, one abolishing slavery and another granting women the right to vote. The first cell phone, the first zipper, the first dishwasher – all were invented here. Illinoisans created the first skyscraper and the John Deere tractor.
What all these things have in common is that they were the product of a people who have always believed it is possible to create a better future, to build a better tomorrow.
Illinois – over the past two months, you’ve dropped off groceries for our elderly neighbors, you’ve ordered meals from our family restaurants, you’ve raised funds for nonprofits, you’ve sewn face coverings for your communities, you’ve delivered educational packets to children, danced from your driveways, practiced your faith in new ways, cheered for our frontline heroes – you’ve been All In for Illinois.
And because of your actions, Illinois will lead the nation in redefining what’s possible once more.
So as we press forward, slowly and steadily – let’s embody the spirit of our nation’s greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, and the wisdom he offered the nation in the final days of his presidency:
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in…”
I believe in the people of Illinois. Now more than ever. And together – we will finish the work we have started.