CHICAGO — The city and the rest of Illinois will fully reopen Friday as new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths have fallen.
During Phase 5, capacity restrictions will be lifted at all businesses and life will return to a new “normal.” Large events, including conventions, festivals and big weddings, will be allowed without capacity limits.
All people will still need to wear masks in certain places — including schools, health care facilities and on public transit — but fully vaccinated people won’t need masks in most settings.
“I invite all Illinoisans to feel the hope and joy of this moment while also recognizing that this pandemic is still very present for the world at large — not to mention those here at home who have not been or cannot be vaccinated,” Gov. JB Pritzker said in a news release. “As we take this next step forward, let’s do so with a renewed commitment to empathy, to community, and to making each day together count. You did it, Illinois.”
Unvaccinated people should still wear masks in most public settings, officials have said.
The change — which residents have waited for since the pandemic started in March 2020 — comes as vaccines have become widely available and, as a result, COVID-19 cases have fallen.
Chicago is seeing an average of just 71 new cases per day, which is “amazing” considering the city once saw as many as 3,500 cases per day, Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said during a Thursday livestream.
Other metrics are down, too: An average of eight Chicagoans are being hospitalized with COVID-19 per day, and the city’s positivity rate has fallen to its lowest point from throughout the pandemic.
Across Illinois, the number of people getting sick, being hospitalized and dying has fallen to near-record-low numbers, too.
Earlier in the week, Arwady said Chicago is seeing “exponential decay” in new cases. And fewer people getting infected means there are fewer people to spread COVID-19, leading to the quick decrease, Arwady said.
But the city is still seeing new cases, with the bulk of them coming in areas where people are less vaccinated, Arwady said.
Now that vaccines are widely available to people 12 and older, about 98 percent of new cases and deaths are among people who are not fully vaccinated, Arwady has previously said.
Last week, Arwady said the city has seen cases among young people, and the best thing people can do to protect children younger than 12 is to “get everybody vaccinated around them.”
It’s possible there will be another surge of cases in the fall and winter, which could mean restrictions are brought back, Arwady and Mayor Lori Lightfoot said last week. But for now, the numbers look good, Arwady said.
“When we looked at our data, every one of the indicators that we’re tracking is honestly doing better than we expected it to be doing at this point. They are all in that lower-risk phase,” Arwady said Friday. “This is the time to open, when you’re on a significant decline like this. I can’t predict fully what we’ll see in the fall or the winter.
“… We felt that we shouldn’t wait. We’re ready to go now. … . We can reopen and, please, get folks vaccinated.”
People getting vaccinated is still the best bet for ending the pandemic, reopening businesses and having the world return to normal, officials have said. More people getting vaccinated also means there are fewer chances for variants of COVID-19 to develop and spread, which would endanger people and pose a threat to reopening efforts.
The vaccinations are free and do not require insurance. Anyone can call the city’s coronavirus hotline at 312-746-4835 to get more information on how and where to get vaccinated in their community.
In Illinois, about 5.6 million people of all ages — or 44.57 percent of the state’s 12.7 million people — have gotten all their COVID-19 vaccination shots, according to state data.
Across the state, 49,572 vaccine doses are being administered per day, based on a seven-day rolling average. Illinois and Chicago have administered at least 11,821,373 vaccine doses of the 13,924,415 provided to them.
City data shows more than 1.2 million Chicagoans — or 45.6 percent of all residents — have gotten fully vaccinated. About 53.1 percent of all Chicagoans have gotten at least one shot. Among Chicagoans 65 and older, 70.2 percent have gotten at least one dose, while 63.9 percent have finished their vaccination.
Another 18 Illinoisans were reported dead from COVID-19 during the past day.
The most recent coronavirus victims included six people from Cook County, including a man in his 50s.
At least 23,014 people have died from COVID-19 in Illinois, and another 2,416 deaths are probably related to the virus, according to the state.
The state reported 366 cases since Wednesday. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in Illinois up to 1,386,628.
Illinois’ seven-day positivity rate held at 1 percent Thursday with 42,403 tests reported. The figure represents the percentage of people testing positive among recent tests.
Illinois’ seven-day test positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that were positive, held at 1.3 percent Thursday.
As of Wednesday night, 764 people were hospitalized with coronavirus in Illinois, including 209 people in the ICU and 103 people using ventilators.
In Chicago, seven deaths and 93 confirmed cases were reported since Wednesday. There have been at least 5,414 deaths from COVID-19 in Chicago and 285,077 confirmed cases, according to state data.
The city is seeing an average of five deaths per day, an increase from four per day the week prior.
An average of 79 confirmed cases are being reported per day, a 41 percent decrease from the previous week. At the same time, testing has fallen 18 percent since a week ago.
The city’s seven-day positivity rate is at 1.4 percent, down from 1.9 percent the week before.
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