'Feel the hope and joy:' Pritzker celebrates move to Phase 5 of Illinois' reopening plan
With the long-awaited move to Phase 5 of Illinois' reopening plan coming tomorrow, Gov. JB Pritzker celebrated the accomplishment Thursday, crediting the work done to get people tested and vaccinated.
Pritzker said he wants Illinois to "feel the hope and joy" of the occasion, even as the pandemic continues in the background.
"A strong economy requires that people not only feel safe, but truly be safe, as they go about their lives as workers, neighbors, consumers and friends," Pritzker said. "Thanks to the lifesaving power of vaccinations, that day is finally here. You did it, Illinois."
More: Here's what you need to know about Phase 5
Phase 5 means no capacity restrictions for a wide swath of the Illinois economy, from businesses to conventions to sporting events. The state will continue to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on mask wearing, with vaccinated people being allowed to shed their masks.
The state embarks on the move to full reopening well on pace to meet President Joe Biden's goal of having 70% of the population vaccinated by July 4. The Illinois Department of Public Health reported that 68% of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with 51% of them fully vaccinated. More than 88% of seniors have also received at least one dose.
Even with all the progress, IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike still wants to remind people that the pandemic isn't over yet, with variants around that could spoil Illinois' hard-earned gains.
"Currently, there is not a vaccine authorized for children younger than 12 years and some adults have chosen not to be vaccinated," Ezike said. "For these reasons, it is important for unvaccinated people to continue to wear masks while in public and to socially distance. The virus can continue to spread among unvaccinated individuals, which could lead to additional mutations and new, more virulent variants."
Even with the move to Phase 5, mass public transportation, such as buses, trains and airplanes, will still require riders or passengers to wear a mask. The Springfield Mass Transit District reiterated that message Thursday, stating Transportation Security Administration directives issued last month still require masks to be worn during one's trip and at any hubs or stations, such as SMTD's Transfer Center.
SMTD said in a statement it will enforce the rules until they expire, which is currently slated to be Sept. 13.
"Until then, or until the TSA issues an update, SMTD will continue to enforce the existing mask requirements without change," the district said. "SMTD will update the public as any changes are made to this TSA policy."
Anyone not wearing a mask will not be allowed passage on any of SMTD's buses and could be passed if alone at any one of the stops.
While one will still need their mask when taking the bus, the progress of vaccinations has allowed Illinois the chance to reopen, with cases continuing to stay as low as they have been since the beginning of the pandemic last spring.
IDPH reported 366 new cases Thursday, marking the fifth straight day of fewer than 500 cases, the first time since March 21-25, 2020 that the state has achieved that feat.
The state also reported 18 new deaths, with the positivity rate remaining steady at 1.3%. The rate as a percentage of total tests also stayed at 1%.
Sangamon County reported four new cases with no additional deaths. Menard County reported no new cases or deaths.
Illinois is also seeing a welcome increase in vaccinations, with 62,268 doses being reported Thursday, the highest since May 27. The seven-day average continued to rise, now at 49,572 doses per day, the highest since May 30.
Overall, the state has administered 11,821,373 vaccines, with 5,678,116 people being fully vaccinated, representing 44.57% of the population.
Sangamon County reported 694 vaccinations Thursday, with the seven-day average moving up to 566 shots per day. Overall, the county has reported 180,968 vaccinations, with 88,584 people being fully vaccinated, representing 45.35% of the population.