Illinois’ Path to Phase IV of COVID-19: Have we met our goals?
On Friday, June 26th each of Illinois’ four health regions transitioned into Phase IV - “Recovery” of the Restore Illinois plan, where a significantly greater degree of freedom is being given to businesses, facilities, schools and public gatherings statewide. This comes at a time when many other states across the country are experiencing a new surge of COVID-19 cases following their own re-openings. Below we list what has changed in Phase IV,and whether each of the state’s four health regions still meets the goals of moving to Phase IV as of 6/29:
Re-openings in Phase IV:
- Gatherings: gatherings of 50 people or fewer are allowed in Phase IV, though this limit is subject to change based on latest data and guidance (only gatherings of up to 10 people were allowed in Phase III)
- Travel: all travel should still follow IDPH and CDC approved guidance (no change from Phase III)
- Health care: all health care providers are now open (they used to require IDPH safety guidance in Phase III)
- Education and child care: P-12 schools, higher education, all summer programs, and child care can now be open with IDPH approved safety guidance (only remote learning and “limited” child care and summer programs were allowed in Phase III, and then still only under IDPH guidance)
- Outdoor Recreation: all outdoor recreation now allowed (only state parks and outdoor activities with 10 people or fewer and using social distancing measures were open in Phase III)
• Manufacturing: all manufacturing open with IDPH approved safety guidance (only essential and non-essential manufacturing facilities that could properly operate with distancing guidelines were allowed in Phase III)
• “Non-essential” businesses: all employees can now return to work with IDPH approved safety guidance. Employers are encouraged to provide accommodations for COVID-19-vulnerable employees (in Phase III, the plan was already allowing non-essential businesses to open, but such depended on the “risk level” of doing so and businesses were “strongly encouraged” to take up a “tele-work” regime whenever possible)
• Bars and restaurants: allowed to fully open, with capacity limits and IDPH approved safety guidance (they were only open for delivery, pick-up and drive through in Phase III)
• Personal care services and health clubs: all barbershops, salons, spas and health and fitness clubs can now open with capacity limits and IDPH approved safety guidance (in Phase III, barbershops and salons were already open, but fitness facilities could only provide outdoor or personal training)
• Entertainment: cinema and theaters can open with capacity limits and IDPH approved safety guidance (they were completely closed in Phase III)
• Retail: can now open with capacity limits and IDPH approved safety guidance (same as in Phase III, but specific mention was made then that people needed to use face-coverings - which now isn’t mentioned anymore, though it may be up to specific stores to choose whether they will only serve mask-wearing clients)
What were the requirements for moving into Phase IV?
- Cases and Capacity: The determination of moving from Phase 3 to Phase 4 was “driven by the COVID-19 positivity rate in each region and measures of maintaining regional hospital surge capacity.” The data was continuously tracked starting from the time a region entered Phase 3:
• 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
- Testing: Testing available in region regardless of symptoms or risk factors
- Tracing: Begin contact tracing and monitoring within 24 hours of diagnosis for more than 90% of cases in region
Does each health region still meet Phase IV requirements
as of June 29th?
The IDPH’s main website does not offer straightforward statistics about the contact tracing and testing capacity of each health region. However, an IDPH spokesperson relayed to the Center that as of June 26th there were 550 contact tracers working statewide (a number that has increased to 611 as of 6/30). That number still falls short of the goal of 3,800 tracers for the entire state, but the number of contact tracers is expected to keep increasing: according to the IDPH, 250 more tracers were slated to start working in the next few weeks, with all 97 of Illinois’s local health departments having applied for funding totaling $230 million to expand contact tracing. Ultimately we do not know, however, if the 611 tracers already meets Phase IV’s requirement of health regions being able to “begin contact tracing and monitoring within 24 hours of diagnosis for more than 90% of cases in region.” Similarly, testing numbers have continued to increase by the tens of thousands each day, which suggests that the state’s testing capacity is likely sufficient to support contact tracing overall.
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