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Pritzker, Ezike explain new ‘bridge’ in reopening plan

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The Pritzker administration says anyone over 16 years old will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine on April 12. The major update was only part of Gov. JB Pritzker’s announcement Thursday afternoon. The governor also said Illinois will use a dial approach to move into a “bridge” period before reaching Phase 5 of the reopening plan.

“Over the year, we have progressed from Phase 1 to Phase 4 and we’re on the verge of the ever-elusive Phase 5,” Pritzker said. “Our progress toward Phase 5, like all the decisions we’ve made, will be based upon the data.”

The new bridge phase will allow more capacity for bars and restaurants. People could also hold larger meetings, gatherings, or celebrations which could help hotels and banquet halls struggling throughout the pandemic.

The Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association appreciated Pritzker’s new “road map” to hold larger events.

“This underscores the importance of providing clarity to event planners, supports our shared goal of getting people back to work safely, and illustrates why the Governor’s announcement reflects his desire to serve as the chief marketing officer for the state,” said IHLA President Michael Jacobson.

Retail businesses will also expand capacity to revive the economy until public health experts approve the move into Phase 5.

“The increasing vaccination rates are how we will move forward,” explained Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “They are how we will get closer and closer to that herd immunity.”

How to move forward

In order to move to the bridge phase, 70% of seniors over 65 will need at least one shot. The state would also need to report a stable or decreasing trend in hospitalizations and deaths over 28 days. However, Illinois could move to Phase 5 when 50% of residents over 16 are vaccinated. At least 20% of the state’s ICU beds would also have to have to be available.

The administration said the entire state will move through the final phases as one. Still, regional and county leaders may want their area to move forward separately. The governor said he hasn’t received negative feedback so far.

“Everybody seems to be pleased with – I mean the people who have given us feedback are pleased, that we’re moving as quickly as we are and feel like getting to these metrics is the right way to go,” Pritzker explained.

Once again, Illinois did not move forward in the plan on Thursday. However, it may not take long since 58% of seniors in Illinois have already received their first dose.

Keeping others safe

“We’ve made it to this point thanks to modern science and the personal sacrifices of people all across this state,” stated Senate President Don Harmon. “You’ve followed the rules and kept each other safe until a vaccine was widely available. Thank you.”

Harmon urged Illinoisans to stay patient and vigilant heading into the final phase of the pandemic.

Pritzker also said the state may vaccinate select groups like state employees and vulnerable essential workers before April 12. The governor said three and a half weeks in the world of vaccinations is like a lifetime.

“So, we have an opportunity here to expand and focus on pods of people that we think are most vulnerable and should try to get vaccinated before we move into the full-blown population,” Pritzker said.

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Mike Miletich

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