By the end of the month, Illinoisans could be dining alfresco at local restaurants – a change from the state’s original reopening plan that limited restaurants to pickup and delivery services during phase three.
“We are by no means out of the woods, but directionally things are getting better, and because of these advances, we are able to make some modifications to allow for more activity during phase three of our reopening Restore Illinois plan,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said from Springfield during his press briefing Wednesday.
Illinois is currently in phase two of the five-phase plan, which divides the state into four regions, which can each move independently through the phases — both forward and, if needed, backwards.
The entire state is on track to move into phase three, called “Recovery,” by May 29. That phase allows for gatherings of up to 10 people, though face coverings are still required and social distancing guidelines must be followed.
On Wednesday, public health officials reported 2,388 new COVID-19 cases and 147 deaths in the 24 hours between Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing statewide totals to 100,418 and 4,525, respectively.
Officials also announced the state has reached the lowest hospitalization rate to date since the pandemic began, with 3,914 people hospitalized; among them, 1,005 patients are in intensive care units and 554 are on ventilators.
“You are slowing the spread, bending the curve, keeping our hospital capacity from being overwhelmed,” Pritzker said of residents who have been following the stay-at-home orders and following public health guidelines, like wearing facial coverings and adhering to social distancing rules. “Because things are getting better, we can allow for more activity for phase three.”
Under the original plan, restaurants and bars wouldn’t have been allowed to reopen to customers until phase four, which cannot occurred until the end of June at the earliest.
Pritzker said he changed his mind about when and how restaurants could reopen based on advice from public health officials, who said summer provided a “unique opportunity” to reopen restaurants safely — at least to outdoor diners.
Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia said outdoor seating provides a lifeline for establishments, though he acknowledged not all in the industry will benefit from it.
“Today’s announcement provides a glimmer of light at the end of this very dark tunnel,” Toia said.
In order to reopen in phase three, restaurants and bars must put 6 feet of space between outdoor tables and keep them away from sidewalks, according to Pritzker, who said masks and social distancing measures for staff would be required. Additional guidance will be provided in the coming days.
Both Pritzker and Toia encouraged municipalities to do whatever they can to allow for restaurants and bars to provide outdoor seating, including closing down streets, using parking lots and expanding sidewalks. “Let’s be innovative,” Toia said.
In addition to patio seating, all state parks and their concession stands will reopen in phase three. Indoor and outdoor tennis facilities will also reopen, and golf courses can allow foursomes. Golf carts will be permitted for use, with one golfer per cart or one immediate household per cart, according to the governor’s office.
The state will also be providing guidance on how other outdoor recreational businesses, like shooting ranges and paintball courses, can reopen.
Personal care services, barbers, salons, tattoo parlors, spas and all retail stores can reopen with IDPH precautions and capacity limits. Officials are developing industry-specific guidance based on conversations with industry leaders and workers, according to the governor, who says those plans will be revealed in the coming days.
Pritzker also said local governments have the right to enact stricter regulations of businesses and recreational activities.
He also issued a warning. “The virus has not gone away,” Pritzker said, urging residents to continue adhering to requirements for social distancing and wearing face coverings. “This road is a long one.”
Kristen Thometz | May 20, 2020 4:44 pm