SPRINGFIELD — As the entire state remains on pace to enter the next phase of reopening in just nine days, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a major addition to the allowed activities under the phase: outdoor dining at restaurants.
Pritzker on Wednesday said restaurants will be able to open outdoor seating to customers when the businesses’ region moves into Phase 3 of the Restore Illinois reopening plan, which all four regions are on pace to do on May 29.
“With the right restrictions, tables six feet apart and away from the sidewalks, masks and distancing measures for staff and other precautions, the experts believe that these services can open at a risk comparable to other outdoor activities,” Pritzker said during his daily COVID-19 briefing in his office at the Capitol, the first time he’s held a briefing in Springfield since March 16.
Pritzker said that no specific restaurant or legal action forced the addition of outdoor seating to the Phase 3 plan. Instead, he said that he has been continuously listening to health experts and industry leaders.
Sam Toia, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said at Wednesday’s briefing that outdoor seating will not be a solution for every restaurant, but it will be “a benefit to many at a time when every dollar counts.”
Toia said that more than half of Illinois restaurants have closed during the stay-at-home order, plummeting sales by 70% to 80% and putting 321,000 employees out of work. He called Pritzker’s announcement a “step in the right direction” that gives restaurants a chance to get creative.
“Let's close down streets. Let's expand sidewalk cafes. Let’s use parking lots and public ways,” he said. “Let’s show the world how innovative Illinois can be.”
Pritzker encouraged local governments to be open-minded to restaurants’ ideas.
“I want to encourage municipalities and mayors who are interested in helping restaurants expand outdoor seating options to do whatever is in their power and best fits their communities to help these restaurants,” Pritzker said.
The Illinois Department of Public Health will issue specific guidance in the coming days. Restaurants are not slated to open to indoor dining until Phase 4.
The governor said that speeding up reopening has been made possible by Illinoisans continuing to obey social restrictions under the stay-at-home order.
“We've come too far and we've made so much progress because we've kept social distance, worn face coverings in public, washed our hands frequently and taken care of our most vulnerable to the best of our ability,” he said. “We must persevere.”
All state parks will reopen on May 29 under Phase 3, Pritzker announced Wednesday. Phase 3 will also include the reopening of indoor and outdoor tennis facilities with IDPH safety precautions and capacity limits.
Golf courses will allow four people per tee time and golf carts will be permitted with either one person or one immediate household per cart. Boating and camping of up to 10 people will also be permitted.
Pritzker said the state will provide guidance “in the coming days” on how other outdoor recreation businesses like driving ranges, shooting ranges and paintball courses can operate in Phase 3. Gyms, barber shops, nail salons and other personal care services will also be allowed to begin reopening.
The governor noted that local governments are allowed to establish stricter guidelines than those imposed by the state.
A handful of municipalities have also tried to reopen early despite the governor threatening to withhold their pass-through funding from the federal government.
Hospitalization numbers improving
IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike announced during Wednesday’s briefing that the state is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
3,914 people are hospitalized with the virus in Illinois, which is the lowest since IDPH began publishing that data daily on April 12 and the first time it has been below 4,000. There were 1,005 patients in intensive care and 554 of those patients were on ventilators as of midnight Tuesday, which is also the lowest since April 12.
IDPH reported 2,388 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, pushing the state’s total above 100,000. The department also reported 147 new deaths, pushing that total to more than 4,500.
On a day that saw more than 21,000 tests in the past 24 hours, Pritzker noted Wednesday that the state is also seeing progress with its positive case rate. The governor said Illinois’ 7-day average is just higher than 1 positive case per 10 tests.
COVID-19 numbers in Southern Illinois
Illinois has tested more than 642,000 people, which is about 1 in 20 Illinoisans.
“We are by no means out of the woods. The virus is still causing sickness and taking lives. But directionally things are getting better,” Pritzker said.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
Meet the 'Mask Committee,' making masks for Southern Illinois police, health care workers
Photos: Meet the 'Mask Committee,' making masks for Southern Illinois police, health care workers
On March 20, I made a mask for my husband, who is a health care worker, because there was a shortage of personal protective equipment, or PPE, at his workplace. Then, I made more masks for my elderly neighbors, elderly local people and local friends, as well as friends from New York and Florida. I was using leftover fabric I had in my workshop — holidays patterns like Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Fourth of July.
I was running out of material and then Calico Country Sew store in Carbondale started donating fabric. I picked up some yards, and I was able to make masks for the police officers from Carterville. But, that was it: I ran out of material, and Amazon wasn’t shipping until May. As soon as I announced on my Facebook page that I had run out of material, people started donating fabric, metal wire, machine needles and threads. With that donation, I was able to keep making more masks to donate, and I completed a group of masks for Herrin police officers.
Then, Dr. Amanda Brazis Cook from Southern Illinois Healthcare approached me asking if I can reuse operating room drapes to make masks. She brought the material to my house, and at that point, I realized I needed extra hands to mass produce masks for area health care workers.
I asked the president of Carterville Rotary Club to help me find ladies who know how to sew, and Mary Slider and Louise Humble joined the effort. I also asked the president of my Woman’s Club in Herrin, and she was able to help me find three more ladies: Patty Cox, Carla Shasteen and Tienne Kollar, all of Herrin.
Another doctor joined the team: Dr. Danielle Tomevi brought material and also found a lady to help us, Dorene from Murphysboro.
And that is how the mask committee was formed. We named it "Mask Committee: Keep Calm and Sew."
After that, Joni, a nurse at Herrin Hospital, joined the committee, too, then Mary Russell, one of the managers from Dillards, Nancy, one of my neighbors, and Mirna from Murphysboro.
We have been sewing our hearts out since March. April was the busiest month for us. We have made hundreds of masks to donate.
Then, we had a request of a new pattern and we had to divide the committee in two to work the requested pattern. Dr. Sara Altamimi provided us with more OR drapes to use, and we have been working making two different masks for area health care workers.
Ninety-five percent of the masks have been donated to SIH, and 5% to community members and police officers. We have received several selfies of health care workers wearing the masks in different departments. It really made us happy that we can give back and help the community in time of need.
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