Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday announced that Illinois restaurants will be allowed to re-open for outdoor seating in phase three of the state's reopening plan, earlier than previously indicated in the plan.
Read Pritzker's full announcement below.
In the midst of this coronavirus pandemic, all Illinoisans have been forced to carry out a very difficult task of fighting against an enemy you can’t see until you or your loved ones fall sick. Slowing it down has required us to stay home and stay apart for two months already. And the virus has brought with it an enormous financial toll on workers and families.
Somehow, you have found the strength to do what’s been required to fight the fight, and you have done these things with exceptional grace and compassion for your fellow Illinoisans. You are slowing the spread, bending the curve, keeping our hospital capacity from being overwhelmed. All around the state, in our streets and our grocery stores, you see people wearing face coverings, knowing they are protecting each other – doing the right thing for their communities and their loved ones.
And because of your perseverance, we have reduced our rate of spread tremendously in every region of the state since even just the beginning of May. We have seen our positivity rate drop – our current seven-day average is 10.3 percent. The need for hospital beds and ICU beds and ventilators has decreased. We are building up our ability to test and contact trace, which allows us to slow and eventually stop new outbreaks before they start.
When I introduced our reopening framework, I said that we can and will make our Restore Illinois plan smarter as we move forward. That is as true today as it was a few weeks ago.
We are by no means out of the woods – the virus is still causing sickness and taking lives – but directionally, things are getting better. And because of these advances, we are able to make some modifications to allow more activity during Phase 3 of our reopening plan Restore Illinois – which all regions of Illinois appear to be on track to reach by the end of May.
Every day from the beginning of this pandemic, my team and I have been in close consultation with public health experts both inside and outside government to discuss when and how we can return different elements of everyday life for Illinoisans. Our mission has always been to get people back to work, get students back to school and return to as much normalcy as possible without jeopardizing the health and safety of Illinoisans. To do so, we’ve listened and learned and tracked the science and the data every day to ensure we are taking the best approach possible. Based on that work, the experts have indicated we can build onto our plan to bring back more activities faster, as long as Illinoisans continue to do as we have, adhering to precautions and safety measures to keep each other safe.
I want to begin with bars and restaurants – many of which are the beloved institutions that make the cities and towns of Illinois so special – the local diner, the corner bar with friendly servers and bartenders and owners known to the whole community. Tragically they were some of the first and hardest hit by this pandemic.
To date, my administration has delivered tens of millions of dollars in assistance to small businesses, including to bars and restaurants. The industry employs hundreds of thousands of people in every corner of our state. And financial assistance isn’t enough. So it’s been important to me to reopen them, but only if it can be done in a way that keeps its employees and customers safe.
Given what is known about how this virus spreads in closed spaces, our public health experts made the decision early on that bars and restaurants should not open their regular indoor food service, and that’s still the case until we reach Phase 4. That has turned out to be a good public health decision – we have to put public health first, and that means the safety and peace of minds of consumers and employees alike.
But the epidemiologists now believe that summer offers us an opportunity, if proper precautions are taken by businesses and their patrons. So after listening to and working with restaurant industry representatives together with our epidemiologists, today, I’m announcing an additional option for bars and restaurants interested in resuming operations earlier: opening for outdoor seating when Phase 3 begins, likely for everyone just 9 days from now.
With the right restrictions – tables six feet apart and away from the sidewalks, masks and distancing measures for staff, and other precautions – the experts believe these services can open at a risk comparable to other outdoor activities, and give our hospitality industry a much-needed boost as they work to keep their businesses on their feet during this crisis.
On that note, I want to encourage municipalities and mayors who are interested in helping restaurants expand their outdoor seating options to do so in whatever way best fits your community – we’ve seen an incredible outpouring of creativity from every corner of the state throughout this crisis, and I have no doubt that Illinoisans will continue that spirit as we pave our way forward.
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Looking ahead, I also want to elaborate on next steps for outdoor activities. As laid out in Restore Illinois, Phase 3 permits all gatherings – not just essential ones – of 10 people or fewer. That means if you want to go enjoy a picnic in the park or a walk with 9 other people, you can – just remember to wear a mask or a face covering when social distance can’t be maintained.
With this new ten person gathering limit, our restrictions around outdoor activities in Phase 3 will see some changes – that means boating or camping with up to ten people is welcome in boats that are an appropriate size to hold that number.
Illinois is also allowing the re-opening of indoor and outdoor tennis facilities with IDPH safety precautions and capacity limits.
As for golfers: in Phase 3, courses can allow foursomes out on the same tee times. Carts will also be permitted with only with one person per cart, or one immediate household per cart.
With significant work to determine staffing and safety measures, all state parks will reopen on May 29. All concession will reopen as well under guidelines set for our retail and food service businesses in Phase 3. I know how important our state parks are to communities across our state, and the staff and leadership of our Department of Natural Resources are looking forward to welcoming you back.
Additionally, in the coming days, we will be providing guidance on how other outdoor recreational businesses, such as driving ranges, outdoor shooting ranges, and paintball courses can safely open their doors in Phase 3.
And on the topic of the days ahead: I want to remind everyone of the other businesses and activities already laid out for Phase 3:
In Phase 3, personal care services – like nail salons, beauty salons, spas, tattoo shops, hair braiders and barbershops – can open with IDPH safety precautions and capacity limits. For health clubs, gyms, and fitness studios, one-on-one personal training in indoor facilities and outdoor fitness classes of up to ten people are allowed with precautions adhered to.
And all retail stores – basically any store that wasn’t already open as an essential business – can choose to open their doors to in-person shopping with IDPH safety precautions and capacity limits in place.
Of course, there’s a whole lot of life outside these arenas, and I know people will have questions on the specifics of these announcements, as well as on topics outside of what I’ve outlined today. In the coming days, we’ll be releasing formal industry-specific guidance developed in consultation with business owners and employees, particularly around workplaces and childcare. IDPH and my office have also received many proposals from churches and religious organizations on how they could operate safely in larger gatherings, including outdoor and drive-in settings, and we are working with them to help offer additional flexibility. Finally, I want to be clear that local governments have every right to establish stricter guidance to local businesses or for local recreation in any of these areas if they believe it would be in the best interests of the people they represent.
I want to offer just a note of concern that I hope everyone will take to heart: The virus has not gone away. Other states that have thrown out restrictions and decided to just go without regulation are seeing rising cases and beginning to see rising hospitalizations. Here in Illinois we have followed the science and we’re succeeding, but we can’t let up now. We’ve come too far and made so much progress because we’ve kept social distance, worn face coverings in public, washed our hands frequently, and taken care of our most vulnerable to the best of our ability. We must persevere.
Illinois – this road is a long one. And I know that it’s hard to see the hate on display by recent protesters who ignore that we’ve lost thousands of Illinoisans to this virus, thousands more are fighting for their lives in our hospitals, and our medical professionals are heroically working round-the-clock to save lives.
Perspective is often difficult to find from up close – but the way the vast majority of the people of this state have come together in this moment is truly incredible. I have never been more proud of Illinois.
Before I take questions, I want to address my administration's emergency rule authorizing an additional compliance mechanism relating to our Stay at Home order, assisting local law enforcement and state’s attorneys in their work to keep people safe.
The majority of states, from our Midwest colleagues like Ohio and Wisconsin to Republican-led states like Georgia and Florida, have or had a broader range of enforcement mechanisms relating to their Stay at Home orders. This temporary emergency rule brought Illinois in line with this national practice, giving local officials more flexibility in their ability to enforce this order with a citation.
That flexibility is the critical piece of this. The state already has enforcement authority, through an IDPH closure order or the revocation of a business license. But those tools are harsher measures that nobody, including me, is interested in pursuing. A business that chooses not to follow the rules can recover from a fine. It is much more expensive to deal with being stripped of a license or forced to close.
The General Assembly has now returned to its operations for the first time since March, and in consultation with leadership in the statehouse, my administration has decided to withdraw this rule in order to pursue legislation with the same intended mechanism in a phased manner in line with the Restore Illinois plan. Enacting this measure through legislation will allow us to have these tools throughout the Restore Illinois plan versus an emergency rule that would be withdrawn and rewritten at the start of Phase 3 and then Phase 4.
I’m here today with Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly as well as Leader Bill Cunningham, who is sponsoring this legislation. I urge the General Assembly to take up and pass this legislation this week. Given importance of what we are trying do here, we will look to file an additional rule if legislation does not occur.
Our only goal here is one we all share: prioritizing public health while reducing the harm that bad actors cause the broader small business community so important to the strength of our economy.