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Watch now: Illinois goes to fewer COVID restrictions Friday. Here's what to expect.

COVID restrictions enter new phase

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SPRINGFIELD — The gradual progression to post-COVID normalcy in Illinois takes a step forward Friday, when the state enters what's being called the "bridge phase."

That's the term state officials coined for yet another stage of loosened COVID-19 restrictions — potentially the final one before a full reopening. 

Here's what to know about changes and where we go from here in the next 28 days. 

What does this mean for me?

Some of Illinois’ strict capacity limits were already eased by the transition into Phase 4; the bridge phase lessens those limits even further. Most places that see groups of people gathering — like offices, amusement parks, museums, gyms and retail stores — can be open to 60% capacity.

Conventions and other events can resume at either 60% capacity or with 1,000 or fewer people — whichever is lesser. Large social events, like a wedding or party, can have up to 250 people indoors and 500 people outdoors together.

Why is this happening now?

Gov. J.B. Pritzker's five-phase reopening plan has been in place since July 2020, but the "bridge phase" —  a sort of in-between period — wasn't added until March 18. State documents describe it as a way to avoid “prematurely embracing a reckless opening before the majority of Illinoisans have been vaccinated.”

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As the governor put it during a press conference Wednesday, the transitional period is a way to avoid “just flinging open the doors.”

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“That sounds like something unsafe states do,” Pritzker said. 

State health officials set various standards for Illinois to meet before transitioning to the bridge phase: 70% of residents 65 and older had to be vaccinated; ICU bed capacity statewide had to be 20% or higher; and admitted COVID patients and COVID-like illnesses had to “hold steady” for 28 days.

Illinois hit the vaccination metric back in March, but a subsequent spike in hospitalizations and cases held the state back from shifting into the bridge phase.

Currently, 83% of the state's seniors are vaccinated

What happens next?

As long as COVID-19 indicators don’t spike during the 28-day monitoring period, the state could become “free of pandemic-related mitigations” as early as June 11, resuming normal business operations in every aspect. 

What about masks?

State officials have said Illinois will continue to follow guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even when state does fully reopen, there will still be a mask mandate in place. While the CDC recommends that even fully-vaccinated people continue to wear a mask indoors, the federal agency recently modified its guidance by lifting that requirement for people outdoors.

What happens if the metrics aren’t met?

If, over the course of 10 days, there is an increase in hospital admissions, decrease in ICU bed availability, and increase in mortality and case rate, the state could revert back to an earlier phase, pushing the reopening date further than June 11.

"The light that we can see at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter."

— Gov. J.B. Pritzker 


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