The state of Illinois could fully reopen this summer. At least that’s the hope of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s chief of staff.
During a budget hearing Tuesday, Chief of Staff Anne Caprara defended the governor’s dozens of consecutive executive orders from the past 13 months during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those orders had far-reaching consequences for people, schools and businesses. During the pandemic, unemployment spiked to record levels, schools were temporarily shuttered and thousands of businesses closed permanently.
The orders were about saving as many lives as possible, she said.
“With the idea that this is not how we want to govern,” Caprara said. “We would very much like to go back to normal times.”
In the past year, the administration said the virus was responsible for about 21,400 deaths. The state has lost more than a third of small businesses since the beginning of the pandemic and the governor’s orders limiting economic activity.
Illinois has been stuck in Phase 4 of the governor’s five-phased reopening plan for months with capacity restrictions on all kinds of activities, including outdoor dining and sports events. Indoor dining has been limited all year and conventions have been put on hold.
Caprara said she hopes “we’re going to be in a place to move to Phase 5 at the beginning of the summer.”
“I always hesitate to say definitely where we’re going to be because we’ve now ridden through several rises and falls of COVID cases,” Caprara said. “More than any other time within the last 14 months I am more hopeful than I’ve ever been about where we’re headed and hopefully within the next few months see a return to some semblance of normalcy.”
The administration has also raised concerns about COVID-19 variants, which the state reports 600 across the state in the past two months. To get to a full reopening, Caprara laid out how much of the state’s population must be vaccinated.
“We’re looking at really 5 million Illinoisans, that 50% of the 16-plus population being vaccinated in order to move into Phase 5,” Caprara said.
Illinois has vaccinated 2.4 million people, or 19 percent of the state’s population.
Despite more than 70 percent of the 65 and older population being vaccinated, the state remains in Phase 4 because of increasing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
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