Legal Update

May 7, 2020

"Restore Illinois" Five-Phase Reopening Plan Announced

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Seyfarth Synopsis:  After a sunny, inviting weekend, and the start of May, inquiries regarding Illinois’ next steps following the Stay at Home order restrictions were abundant.  On May 5, 2020, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced “Restore Illinois,” a five phase plan for moving forward in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Here, we provide details on what each step of that plan allows and how Illinois will get there.

Last week, we provided a summary of Illinois Governor Pritzker’s April 23rd announcement and order extending the Illinois stay at home order until at least May 30, 2020.  However, the Governor advised there would be modifications of that order that impact, among other things, various types of business operations.

On May 5, 2020, Governor Pritzker outlined a five phase plan for those modifications in the “Restore Illinois” plan.  The plan allows reopening the state based upon regional healthcare availability, recognizing the impact COVID-19 has on the various regions of Illinois.  The plan to reopen Illinois will be guided by public health metrics and based on the Illinois Department of Public Health (“IDPH”) 11 Emergency Medical Services Regions, which are grouped together into four new regions:  Northeast Illinois, North Central Illinois, Central Illinois and Southern Illinois, as set forth in this map.

Illinois Is Past Phase One - Rapid Spread

Phase One is described as a stage of rapid spread of COVID-19.  Illinois experienced Phase One from early March to April 30, 2020, during which Illinois moved to minimum essential operations.  During this time, Illinois bent the curve to curtail the rapid spread of the virus, acquired necessary protective and healthcare equipment and expanded hospital capacity.  The Governor announced that Illinois thankfully has moved through that first stage.

Phase Two - Flattening the Curve, Illinois’ Current Stage

Currently, the state is acting within Phase Two of the plan.  This means the rise in the rate of infection is beginning to slow and stabilize.  Hospitalizations and intensive care unit bed usage continue to increase -- but are flattening, and hospital capacity remains stable.  Face coverings must always be worn when social distancing is not possible.  Non-essential retail businesses can open for pickup and delivery; and golf and some other outdoor activities are allowed with strict rules.  Non-essential travel is discouraged.  No non-essential gatherings are allowed of any size, and essential gatherings, such as religious services, are only allowed for 10 people or fewer.

Phase Three - What Is It and How Do We Get There

Phase Three is described as “Recovery.”  At that point, nonessential manufacturing and other non-essential businesses can open in accordance with social distancing, face coverings worn, and IDPH safety guidance.  All health care providers are open consistent with IDPH approved safety guidance.  Telework, wherever possible is strongly encouraged. Bars and restaurants can continue to open for delivery, pickup, and drive through only.  Barbershops and salons can reopen.  Health and fitness clubs can offer outdoor classes and one on one personal training all in accordance with IDPH safety guidance.  The region’s state parks, limited childcare and summer programs can operate with IDPH guidance.  Remote learning can take place in preschool - 12th grade schools and higher education.  Retail can open with capacity limits, face coverings worn, and following approved safety guidance.  Public and private gatherings of 10 people or fewer can take place with social distancing practices in place during this phase.

To move from Phase Two (the current phase) to Phase Three depends on the COVID-19 positivity data in each region and measures of maintaining regional hospital surge capacity.  Specifically, to move onward requires:

  • At or under a 20 percent COVID-19 test positivity rate and increasing no more than 10 percentage points over a 14-day period; and
  • No overall increase in hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illness for 28 days; and
  • Available surge capacity of at least 14 percent of ICU beds, medical and surgical beds, and ventilators; and
  • Testing must be available in a region for all patients, health care workers, first responders, people with underlying conditions, and residents and staff in congregate living facilities.

Notably, the earliest a region can move into Phase 3, if it meets these metrics, would be Friday, May 29, 2020.

Phase Four - Revitalization

Phase Four is characterized as “Revitalization,” and will mean there has been a continued decline in the rate of infection in new COVID-19 cases.  In this phase, restaurants, bars, spas, cinemas, theaters, retail and health and fitness clubs can open with new capacity limits and IDPH approved safety guidance, including personal protective equipment for employees.  Schools, summer and fall programs, childcare and higher education can open with safety guidance and all outdoor recreation programs would be allowed. Public gatherings in phase four will be limited to 50 people, although this limit is subject to change up or down depending upon what the science tells us at the time.

To move from Phase Three to this Phase Four requires:

  • At or under a 20 percent 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 percent of ICU beds, medical and surgical beds, and ventilators; and
  • Testing available in region regardless of symptoms or risk factors.

Phase Five - Illinois Restored to a New Normal

Essentially, this means Illinois will return to a new “normal.”  In order to move to this final Phase Five, there must be a vaccine, effective and widely available treatment, or the elimination of new cases over a sustained period of time through herd immunity or other factors.

Once Illinois reaches Phase Five, all sectors of the economy will reopen, including businesses, schools, and recreation resuming normal operations with new safety guidance and procedures.  Finally, during this phase, conventions, festivals, and large events again can take place.

The Governor advised that the Restore Illinois plan is an initial framework that will likely be updated as research, science, and the potential for treatments or vaccines develop.  The IDPH will be closely monitoring key metrics to immediately identify changes in public health metrics to determine the phase needed.  And as mentioned, the current Illinois stay at home order, operating under Phase Two, remains in effect until May 30, 2020.

Seyfarth continues to monitor Illinois’ business-related orders in response to COVID-19 and will provide further updates as available.  Employers should continue preparing to make adjustments to their operations and workforce to ensure compliance as Illinois reopening orders evolve.