State Sets Metrics-Based 'Bridge' to Fully Reopen; Vaccine Eligibility Expands to All Residents 16+ on April 12

State Sets Metrics-Based ‘Bridge’ to Fully Reopen; Vaccine Eligibility Expands to All Residents 16+ on April 12

State officials today (Thursday, March 18, 2021) announced a metrics-based, vaccination-informed framework for Illinois to advance to Phase 5 of the state’s Restore Illinois Plan, which officials are calling “our new normal.”

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker

Gov. JB Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said the new framework recognizes an increasing national vaccine supply that allows the state to open vaccinations to all Illinois residents age 16+ starting April 12.

According to a state of Illinois news release, additional populations will be made eligible in stages, prior to the April 12 universal eligibility.

Currently, every region of the state is in Phase 4 of the five-phase Restore Illinois mitigation plan, with Phase 5 comprising a post-pandemic normalcy as detailed here. The newly announced metrics offer Illinois a bridge between the state’s current Phase 4 restrictions and the “new normal” operations of Phase 5.

This “Bridge Phase” will serve as a transition period with higher capacity limits and increased business operations, without prematurely embracing a reckless reopening before the majority of Illinoisans have been vaccinated. All regions of the state will move through the Bridge Phase and ultimately to Phase 5, together.

The state’s mask mandate will continue in accordance with current CDC guidance.

medical team giving coronavirus vaccine to seniors

“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,” Pritzker said. “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.”

Officials project that weekly vaccine deliveries to Illinois will surpass 1 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,” Pritzker said. “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.”

“We want and need to move forward, but we must be measured and cautious in the approach,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.“Rather than flipping a switch and saying we’re now in Phase 5, we’re looking at it more like a dial – dialing back some of the capacity restrictions that helped reduce transmission, and ultimately the number of new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.  We don’t want to move too quickly and risk a significant reversal of our progress.”

“We are proud to have worked alongside IDPH and our industry partners to craft guidelines that will allow a safe return for some of the biggest economic drivers in our state,” said Sylvia Garcia, Acting Director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity

METRICS AND GUIDELINES

As Illinois moves towards our new normal, the administration is outlining clear metrics that will allow the state to continue progressing in the battle against COVID-19 without sacrificing the gains made over the last twelve months.

The bridge to Phase 5 allows for higher capacity limits at places like museums, zoos and spectator events as well as increased business operations. As with all mitigations the administration has implemented to combat the virus to date, the Bridge Phase is based on science and was developed by health experts.

To advance into the Bridge Phase, the entire state must reach a 70% first dose vaccination rate for residents 65 and over, maintain a 20% or lower ICU bed availability rate and hold steady on COVID-19 and COVID-like illness hospital admissions, mortality rate, and case rate over a 28-day monitoring period. To advance to Phase 5, the state must reach a 50% vaccination rate for residents age 16 and over and meet the same metrics and rates required to enter the transition phase, over an additional 28-day period.

To prevent a large increase in new COVID-19 cases, Illinois will revert back to an earlier phase if over the course of 10 days the state experiences an increasing trend in COVID-19 and COVID-like illness hospital admissions, a decrease in ICU bed availability, an increase in the mortality rate, and an increasing case rate.

In an update to current Phase 4 mitigations and the capacity limits of the bridge to Phase 5, individuals with proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test (PCR) 1-3 days prior to an event or outing do not count against capacity limits. The mitigation plan announced today also includes additional adjustments to current Phase 4 mitigations, made in coordination with business leaders and health experts, to ensure mitigations reflect the latest science and are consistent across industries.

As regulations are rolled back gradually in the weeks ahead, Illinoisans should continue practicing the public health guidelines that have kept us safe during the pandemic, including wearing face coverings and maintaining social distance.

COVID-19 VACCINE AVAILABILITY

Since the COVID-19 vaccine was first made available in Illinois last December, the state has administered over 4.3 million doses. Through partnerships with local health departments, pharmacies, community health centers and other care providers, the state is currently administering an average of 100,000 vaccines each day. So far, the state has administered the COVID-19 vaccine to more than 1 in 4 Illinois adults over the age of 16, including over 58% of Illinoisans ages 65 and over.

Beginning April 12, 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.

Currently, all vaccines are administered by appointment only. While vaccine eligibility is expanding on April 12, making an appointment to receive a shot may take time. Information regarding vaccination locations as well as details on how to book an appointment to receive the vaccine can be found at the state’s COVID website, coronavirus.illinois.gov.

Residents who don’t have access to or need assistance navigating online services can call the toll-free IDPH hotline at 833-621-1284 to book an appointment. The hotline is open seven days a week from 6am to midnight with agents available in English and Spanish.

Illinoisans who are not currently eligible to receive the vaccine cannot schedule an appointment for a future date. Residents are encouraged to be patient in the days and weeks following April 12th as vaccination appointments may be limited.

To date, the FDA has authorized the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use in 16- and 17-year-olds as well as adults. The Johnson & Johnson and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are currently FDA authorized for use in those 18 and older.

SOURCE: state of Illinois news release