SPRINGFIELD, Ill — Officials are taking the final step to reopening Illinois Friday.
Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois plan eliminates all capacity limits on businesses, large-scale events, conventions, amusement parks and other venues starting June 11.
“A strong economy requires that people not only feel safe, but truly be safe, as they go about their lives as workers, neighbors, consumers, and friends – and thanks to the lifesaving power of vaccinations, that day is finally here for Illinois,” Gov. JB Pritzker said in an email news release Thursday.
The reopening comes nearly 15 months after the first stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, COVID-19 metrics are at some of their lowest since the beginning of the pandemic. On Thursday, the state reported 366 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases and a test positivity rate of 1.3%.
“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,” Pritzker said. “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.”
More than 68% of Illinois residents 18 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine. The state reports 51% of adults are fully vaccinated. That still leaves a lot of residents who haven’t received a vaccine, or aren’t eligible yet to get one.
“It is a very exciting time as we reach the point where businesses can operate without capacity limits and we are seeing the return of large events we’ve enjoyed in the past. However, it is important to remember that we are still in a world pandemic and not everyone has the protection of one of the safest and most effective vaccines ever,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “Currently, there is not a vaccine authorized for children younger than 12 years and some adults have chosen not to be vaccinated.”
Businesses still can have their own rules for capacity, masks and social distancing. Illinois will continue to follow CDC guidelines on masks. Masks are still required on public transportation and in airports, schools and hospitals.
Reopening Illinois meant reopening some downtown streets in Belleville. The city's streets department was out early Friday morning removing concrete barricades that blocked vehicle traffic for more than a year. The barricades provided restaurants more space for outdoor dining. Now with indoor dining at full capacity, the streets are back open.
The city of Belleville released the following statement regarding the streets reopening:
"In response to the impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Belleville City Council approved a series of resolutions implementing local measures related to the State’s Restore Illinois Guidelines/Mitigation Plan in order to assist the safe operation of businesses, including downtown street closures and temporary permits allowing for expansion of outdoor dining for restaurants/bars. The most recent resolution approved last month remained effective through the State’s Bridge Phase until Phase 5 of the Plan. With the State moving to a full reopening today, June 11th, the City Council’s resolution has expired and business operations in Belleville will return to some normalcy. The City thanks its business owners, residents and visitors for their cooperation during such unprecedented times."
The Associated Press and 5 On Your Side's Ryan Dean contributed to this report.