SPRINGFIELD — Gov. JB Pritzker announced Friday, the first day Illinois’ economy operated under more relaxed restrictions, his stay-at-home order is replaced by one reflective of “our new, more open reality.”
Small businesses statewide opened their doors to customers, with capacity limitations. Restaurants and bars served socially-distanced diners outside, and fitness centers taught classes outdoors with small groups of people. Barbershops and salons resumed services as well, and state parks, wildlife areas and historic sites welcomed visitors.
The governor’s Community Recovery Executive Order codified those changes while emphasizing the need for face coverings. It also extends the ban on residential evictions and utility shutoffs.
It was Illinoisans, he said, who made the easing of restrictions possible.
In the past four weeks, there was an average of 250 fewer novel coronavirus patients admitted to hospital intensive care units, or a drop of 20 percent, Pritzker said. And in the past two weeks, there was a 32-percent decrease in the number of COVID-19-related deaths.
“The significant personal pain that Illinoisans are feeling from this pandemic does not end with our stay-at-home order. Indeed, it’s more important than ever to support our working families as we begin our safe recovery,” the governor said. “The journey to this point has seemed very long and, unfortunately, the journey is far from over. Let’s be clear on this: the virus is still out there and it’s very dangerous.”
Residents must continue to follow the Illinois Department of Public Health’s guidance — frequent handwashing, regular sanitation of commonly-touched surfaces, use of a face covering when in public and observation of social distancing.
And when travelling to neighboring states that instill fewer restrictions than Illinois, he added, people should not participate in activities deemed unsafe by epidemiologists.
Pritzker also announced the end to his 2:30 p.m. daily briefings. Those will be held on an as-needed basis moving forward.
Dr. Ngozi Ezike, IDPH’s director, said in the previous 24 hours there were 1,622 new COVID-19 cases and 86 related deaths.
The state’s total is now 117,455 confirmed cases and 5,270 virus-related fatalities. Cases were reported in all but one Illinois county.
“We must learn to coexist with COVID, and will coexist until we find proven treatments and a vaccine,” Ezike said. “Please be safe as we head into this weekend into phase 3. I trust all of you and your communities will model safe practices — social distancing and wearing face coverings — to minimize the transmission of this virus.”
The department issued “comprehensive” guidance to houses of worship that plan to resume in-person services, Pritzker said. Those include a continuation of online vents, addition of drive-up services or in-person services of no more than 10 people.
“I’ve said from the very beginning that I would never do anything to break up a service, to interfere with religion,” the governor said. “What I have done is implored leaders not to gather their parishioners because what we want most of all is for people to be healthy and safe.”
Illinois’ contact tracing efforts are “ramping up,” Ezike said. Residents may receive a phone call or text message from an agent notifying them of possible COVID-19 exposure.
“It’s very important” Illinoisans respond to those outreach efforts, she added.
The system has about half the reach it needs, Pritzker said, and officials are “rapidly” trying to grow the program. More than 80 local health departments are working with the state to build that needed capacity.
Contact tracers will never ask for financial information, social security numbers or any other sensitive information. If someone does, it is likely to be a scam, Ezike warned.
• The governor said he “cannot imagine the rage and fear that must be felt by black Americans watching what happened to George Floyd,” an unarmed black man who died in police custody this week after video showed an officer kneeling on his neck as he gasped for air in Minneapolis.
“We’re lucky that that video was ever taken because that is happening around America probably every day and unfortunately, time and time again — even when these videos come out, even when so many of us have the feeling of, ‘it’s time for a major change,’ and we work toward that change — somehow for Black America, it never really comes,” Pritzker said. “And that’s unacceptable.”
In response to a reporter’s question, he said he long called out U.S. President Donald Trump for being “a racist, a misogynist, a homophobe (and) a xenophobe.”
“His tweets, his reaction, his failure to address the racism that exists in America, his stoking of the flames in sometimes subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle ways is completely unacceptable,” Pritzker said. “It’s reprehensible. In fact, and I’m outraged by what he does in response to these situations.”
• Pritzker said he will sign legislation that was approved by the General Assembly last week, but not at large ceremonies. On his desk are two budget measures as well as bills altering the tax structure for a Chicago casino, legalizing cocktails-to-go, expanding Medicaid and growing Illinois’ vote-by-mail program, among others.
• Alternate housing and care facilities will be maintained in “some degree,” the governor said. Throughout most of the COVID-19 pandemic, hotel and motel rooms were available for those with the virus who could not socially distance at home, for example. That will not change as the state moves into Phase 3 of the Recover Illinois plan.
“Until you get a very good treatment or a vaccine, we don’t want to get caught short. and so we’re going to be doing everything we can to keep people safe and give them the opportunity to find those housing opportunities, but also everything we can to avoid the situation of a surge,” Pritzker said.