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The last step: Pritzker excited for Illinois to fully reopen Friday

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Gov. JB Pritzker says Friday will be a “terrific moment” in the state’s history as Illinois fully reopens. He told the Capitol Bureau moving into Phase 5 is the final chapter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After over a year of mitigations challenging daily life, Pritzker is excited for people to get back to a sense of normal. The governor wants people to feel hope and joy while also recognizing the pandemic is still present. Still, Pritzker says this is a time to celebrate.

“People have worked hard across the state to follow the mitigations,” Pritzker said. “You know, it’s an unnatural thing this novel coronavirus that hit us. Nobody knew how bad this really would be. But, as we got to see, it took a lot of work on everyone’s part for us to overcome this.”

The Chicago Democrat also thanked people for going out to get their COVID-19 shots. He noted nearly 70% of the adult population in Illinois has received vaccines.

Illinois reported 366 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 18 deaths on Thursday. The state has documented 1,386,628 cases since the start of the pandemic. While most have recovered, 23,014 Illinoisans have died. The 7-day rolling positivity rate for Illinois is now 1%.

As of Wednesday night, 764 people remain hospitalized for COVID-19. Of those, 209 patients were in the intensive care unit and 103 were on ventilators.

11,821,373 vaccines have been administered across Illinois. The Department of Public Health says 5,678,116 residents are fully vaccinated. That’s 44.57% of the state’s population.

82.42% of adults over 65 have received at least one dose. The state says 62.32% of people over 16 are also vaccinated.

Pritzker would also like to see more children vaccinated. While some may feel that could be challenging with parents concerned about vaccine effects on kids, Pritzker said many jumped at the opportunity.

“The 12 to 17-year-old category has been vaccinating at a much faster rate clip than adults did. I’m hopeful that that will continue,” Pritzker explained. “I think that because there’s parents that are anxious to keep their kids safe. I think it’s because kids are smart enough to know that they should get inoculated so that they don’t have to get COVID or give it to anybody.”

Illinois is also waiting for the FDA to authorize the use of COVID-19 vaccines for children under 12. The governor hopes that happens soon so all students can get their vaccination before returning to school this fall.

According to federal and state leaders, fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks inside or outside. Of course, medical offices, public transportation, and some private businesses could still require protective coverings. Pritzker says some people may be more comfortable keeping their masks around longer.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” Pritzker said. “One of the side effects of everybody wearing a mask is that we had one of the lowest rates of flu that we’ve ever had. So, think about that. Maybe it’s important that many people wear masks going forward even for that reason.”

However, the Pritzker administration continues to stress those who haven’t received a vaccine must wear masks. The governor encouraged those individuals to sign up for a shot as soon as possible. He hopes the new incentives for vaccinations will encourage more people to get the shot.

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Mike Miletich

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