SPRINGFIELD — All of Illinois is “on track” to progress into the next phase of Gov. JB Pritzker’s plan to reopen the state safely, he said Tuesday during his daily update teleconference in Chicago.
The current phase of the plan allows residents to visit golf courses and state parks, retail shops to deliver orders placed remotely and medical centers to allow elective surgeries to resume.
By moving into the “Recovery” phase in 10 days, offices, salons, barbershops and manufacturers will begin to return with some capacity restrictions. Pritzker said the progress in various metrics — including the rate of positive COVID-19 tests, hospital admissions and ventilator availability — is “terrific news.”
The governor added while some residents are “itching” to move ahead quicker than the 28-day period prescribed, the Restore Illinois plan was designed by experts to ensure safety.
“I can say with confidence that here in Illinois, we’ve committed to operating with a focus on public health and transparent measurable benchmarks to move to each new phase,” Pritzker said. “...There’s no doubt this is hard, but public health means that each of us is working to protect all of us.”
Also difficult is residents living in border communities seeing restaurants, bars and shops open in Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin, he added.
The federal government should have instituted a national procedure to avoid a “patchwork” of rules and regulations, Pritzker said. And instead of following the guidance issued by the White House which would have delayed Illinois’ reopening, the governor added, President Donald Trump “decided to inject politics where science and data should have won out.”
Keeping Illinoisans safe is the job of Illinoisans, lead epidemiologist at University of Chicago Medicine Dr. Emily Landon said.
“Now we all realize there will be no swift rescue, no knight in shining armor in the form of a vaccine or an antiviral that will sweep in and return our lives to normal before the summer comes,” she said. “...Our transmission balance is tenuous and business as usual could set off another wave of infections that threatens our lives and livelihoods.”
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the department’s director, said that downward trend is positive and officials will continue to track those numbers as the end of May approaches.
“This just solidifies these measures have been working, both the stay-at-home, both the masking, both the social distancing — all those things are effective and that’s why we’ve got the numbers that are improving,” she said.
Ezike said as Illinois enters the next phase, health officials will be watching the hospitalization numbers closely to “make sure that these measures that have loosened don’t have a spike that will make us want to tamp the brakes a little bit.”
While case numbers continue to climb, that’s a function of increased testing, she added.
Pritzker said Illinois achieved “another major milestone” by becoming the most populous state in the U.S. for testing per capita. There is “much more work to do,” he added.