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Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration is set to unveil a plan later this week that will more gradually move the state from current coronavirus restrictions to a full reopening, officials said Monday.
Illinois is now in the fourth phase of the governor’s reopening plan, as it was over the summer before the fall resurgence of the pandemic, with limits on crowds and indoor dining. In the next phase of the governor’s plan, “all sectors of the economy reopen” and “conventions, festivals, and large events can take place.”
But at a state Senate Health Committee meeting Monday, Illinois Department of Public Health director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said to get “from where we are now to phase five, (is) maybe not just an on-off switch but a dial, so there may be one more phase.”
Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh confirmed that the administration is “working on a phased-in reopening.”
“We’ve been having lots of conversations with industry and health experts,” Abudayyeh said, adding that further details will come later this week.
Ezike said the key bench marks that will lead to full reopening include having a majority of seniors vaccinated, as well as consideration of overall vaccinations, and seeing the number of COVID-19 related deaths continue to go down.
One thing that isn’t expected to go away is guidance to wear masks in public, she said.
“We’re not getting rid of masks,” Ezike added. “We think masks have to continue to be a mainstay.”
Earlier Monday, public health officials said that an average of 102,147 coronavirus vaccine doses were administered daily over the last week in Illinois, surpassing the previous high of 98,166 reported for the week ending March 10.
The number of residents who have been fully vaccinated — receiving both of the required shots, or Johnson & Johnson’s single shot — reached 1,524,765, or 11.97% of the total population.
Officials on Monday reported 782 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 12 additional fatalities. While COVID-19 data tends to trend lower on Mondays, the case count is the lowest in Illinois since 707 cases were reported July 14.
The total number of known infections in Illinois since the start of the pandemic is 1,210,113, and the statewide death toll is 20,955.
The seven-day statewide positivity rate for cases as a share of total tests is 2.2% as of Sunday. Monday’s new cases resulted from a batch of 39,145 tests.
As of Sunday night, 1,112 people in Illinois were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 227 patients in intensive care units and 95 patients on ventilators.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have dropped precipitously since the beginning of the year, with an average of 1,131 people per day in hospitals statewide during the week ending Sunday, down from an average of 3,871 per day during the first week of January.
“We really want to focus on hospitalization because as we get our seniors vaccinated, then we know most people that most people (who catch the virus) won’t be hospitalized, won’t die,” Ezike said.
Roughly 85% of Illinoisans who died from COVID-19 were 65 or older, she said.
Also Monday, Pritzker’s office announced the state is launching a vaccination program in rural Illinois this week as part of a partnership between the Illinois National Guard and local health departments.
National Guard members will visit communities to deliver more than 1,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine per day.
The mobile operations will host vaccination events, beginning in Fayette and Shelby counties, with additional sites in Moultrie and Clay counties to follow. Appointments will be available to county residents only.
“The rural vaccination pilot program takes availability one step further by bringing the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine directly into regions that have historically had less easy access to healthcare,” Pritzker said in a statement