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The Illinois reopening plan, “Restore Illinois,” consists of five broad phases, ranging from strict stay at home and social distancing guidelines in Phase 1 to a completely reopened economy and a widespread vaccine/treatment plan as the defining characteristics of Phase 5. The plan splits Illinois into four different regions — Northeast, North-Central, Central, and South — and allows each region to move independently along the designated plan.
As of June 26, all four regions of Illinois have moved on to Phase 4 of the plan, characterized by “gatherings of up to 50 people [...] restaurants and bars reopen[ed], travel [...], child care and schools reopen[ed ...] under guidance from the IDPH, and face coverings and social distancing [as] the norm.” It is possible that a region will move back a phase based on four factors, namely “sustained rise in positivity rate, sustained increase in hospital admissions for COVID-19 like illness, reduction in hospital capacity threatening surge capabilities, [or a] significant outbreak in the region that threatens the health of the region.” Although many non-essential services have reopened, they are still subject to safety guidelines from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). These guidelines include:
While President Trump has impelled school districts to reopen, Governor J.B. Pritzker has suggested that Illinois schools should not feel compelled to do so. The IDPH has not prescribed an overall guideline on the state of school reopening, but some individual school districts are considering doing so. District 211, one of the state’s largest school districts, has envisioned three possible reopening scenarios: an online scenario, an in-person scenario, and a possible “hybrid” scenario in which half the student population takes weekly turns physically attending school while the other half attends remotely. The Archdiocese of Chicago announced its intention to reopen its schools with safety measures, like masks and temperature checks, in place. District 201 has also announced plans to reopen its schools but faces budget deficits due to falling revenue and state aid combined with potentially increased expenditures for disease prevention. While many schools have announced their intention to return to the classroom, it is very likely that they will switch back to virtual learning if a second wave occurs.
The IDPH guidelines set forth have proven broadly successful so far, albeit with some uncertainty. The number of cases confirmed per day have experienced an uptick recently, with July 11 being the third day of over 1000 confirmed cases. While the seven-day positivity rate has continued to increase in recent weeks, jumping to 3.03%, July 11 saw a slight decline in its daily positivity rate. The pandemic has eased a bit, but it is necessary that we remain in keeping with the official guidelines so that we can continue to make steady progress towards reopening the economy.
Written by Mathew Illimoottil
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