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Coronavirus

How does Illinois advance to Phase 4?

George Smith employee at Rephils in La Salle raises an umbrella outside of the bar on Friday.
George Smith employee at Rephils in La Salle raises an umbrella outside of the bar on Friday.

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This past Friday, all four of the state’s Restore Illinois health care regions advanced to Phase 3 of Gov. JB Pritzker’s plan to bring the state out of a stay-at-home order while combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

But how does the state advance to Phase 4? And what opens up then?

First, the earliest any region can advance to Phase 4 is Friday, June 26. Pritzker has been asked why the need for 28 days between phases, while other states such as New York are using 14-day time periods to measure, and has defended it by saying he simply won’t open the door to overwhelming hospital systems.

With that, the metrics to advance to Phase 4 are virtually the same.

From the Restore Illinois plan:

“The determination of moving from Phase 3 to Phase 4 will be driven by the COVID-19 positivity rate in each region and measures of maintaining regional hospital surge capacity. This data will be tracked from the time a region enters Phase 3, onwards.

“At or under a 20% positivity rate and increasing no more than 10 percentage points over a 14-day period, AND

“No overall increase (i.e. stability or decrease) in hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illness for 28 days, AND

“Available surge capacity of at least 14% of ICU beds, medical and surgical beds and ventilators.”

So what’s different? Why not just advance to Phase 4 now if each region is meeting the same metrics?

Testing and contact tracing requirements are significantly ramped up for advancing to Phase 4.

For testing, it must be available regardless of symptoms or risk factors.

For contact tracing, monitoring and tracing within 24 hours of diagnosis for more than 90% of cases in a region is a requirement.

Contact tracing is the process of identifying people who may have come in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

As of Friday, the state remains well short of its contact tracing goal. Pritzker said earlier in May that the state will need about 3,800 contact tracers at its peak, at a cost that could reach $80 million.

Pritzker said last week that only about 30% of exposed contacts are being reached right now. The state is working to vastly increase its contact tracing workforce.

“We’re trying to get there,” Pritzker said. “It’s a large endeavor. We have 97 local health departments that we’re coordinating with. They’re doing a terrific job, by the way. More than 80 of them are already active in helping us build up this contact tracing capability.”

The state also could move backward to Phase 2 if there is a sustained rise in the positivity rate of COVID-19 testing, a sustained increase in hospital admissions for COVID-19, a reduction in hospital capacity that threatens surge capabilities or a significant outbreak that threatens the health of a region

But if the state can continue to meet the metrics to advance – as of Sunday all four regions remained on track, minus the unknown number of contact tracers – here is what opens up in Phase 4.

A note that some of these businesses have been allowed to open up in Phase 3, with safety guidance.

• All gatherings of 50 or fewer people are allowed, with that limit subject to change.

• P-12 schools, higher education, all summer programs, and child care open with Illinois Department of Public Health-approved safety guidance.

• All manufacturing opens with IDPH-approved safety guidance.

• “Nonessential” businesses: All employees return to work with IDPH-approved safety guidance; employers are encouraged to provide accommodations for COVID-19-vulnerable employees

• Entertainment: Cinema and theaters open with capacity limits and IDPH-approved safety guidance.

• Retail: Open with capacity limits and IDPH-approved safety guidance.

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