Unclear if Cook County will ease restrictions and expand eligibility on the same timeline
By Josh Bootsma
LANSING, Ill. (March 20, 2021) – Governor Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike announced on Thursday that Illinois will soon move to a “bridge phase” of COVID-19 restrictions, easing limitations for businesses and activities before the state moves to Phase 5, which has no capacity limitations. The state also announced a move to expand eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations to all residents ages 16 and up starting on April 12.
It is unclear if Cook County health officials will follow the state’s lead in easing COVID mitigations and expanding vaccine eligibility.
The Bridge Phase
All regions in Illinois are in Phase 4 of the State’s COVID mitigations. Phase 5 is often referred to as “the new normal” phase and removes all capacity restrictions. The state’s “bridge phase” serves as a middle ground of restrictions between Phases 4 and 5.
According to the state, once 70% of residents 65 and older statewide have received their first dose of vaccine and no increase in COVID-19 metrics is recorded, the state could move into the bridge phase. As of Thursday, March 18, 58% of Illinoisans ages 65 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine. The state’s mask mandate will continue in accordance with current CDC guidance.
IL can move to Phase 5 of its Restore Illinois Plan once 50% of residents 16 and older have received their first dose of the vaccine and no increase in COVID-19 metrics is recorded.
A full list of the restrictions eased in the bridge phase is available here.
“COVID-19 has not gone away, but the light we can see at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter and brighter as more people get vaccinated,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “It’s time to begin to cautiously move toward normalcy, and it’s imperative that we do so in a way that maintains all the progress we’ve made to date. With projections from the Biden Administration indicating that weekly vaccine deliveries to Illinois will surpass one million doses in April, it is fully in our power to turn the page on this dark and devastating chapter even as we race a tough clock: the new variants. I invite all Illinoisans to join me in wearing your mask and getting vaccinated when it’s your turn. Step by step, we can get out of this the same we came into it—together.”
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, over 4.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine has been administered, with over 100,000 doses being administered each day.
A state press release said on Thursday, “Thanks to an increased allocation of vaccine doses from the federal government, all Illinois residents will be eligible to receive the vaccine beginning April 12th. At that date, all state-supported mass vaccination sites, local health departments, pharmacy partners—in short, every jurisdiction that receives vaccine from the State of Illinois’ allocation—will be instructed to move to widespread eligibility.”
It not yet clear if Cook County will also move to universal eligibility on April 12. Cook County will not move to Phase 1b+ until March 22, a phase the rest of the state has been in since February 25.