Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday said thousands of child care centers will be asked to reopen next week as hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans are expected to return to work with the next phase of his reopening plan.
More than 2,500 child care homes and 700 centers have been operating for essential workers since Pritzker’s first stay-at-home order went into effect shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic hit Illinois.
Now, with all four regions of the state poised to enter Phase 3 of Pritzker’s “Restore Illinois” plan May 29, his office is tapping all of the state’s 5,500-plus licensed child care providers to reopen along with the thousands of retailers, restaurants, salons and other businesses that will be allowed to resume at least limited operations.
“We can’t have a conversation about going back to work without talking about child care,” Pritzker said during a coronavirus briefing in Springfield. “If we don’t have child care, a large portion of the workforce — especially women, who too often bear a disproportionate burden — will be without any way to move forward without caring for their child themselves.”
For the first four weeks providers are open, classes will be limited to 10 kids. After that — and after they’ve “gotten accustomed to the new health, social distancing and sanitation routines” — providers will expand to groups sizes that are still about 30% lower than their pre-pandemic capacities. And they’ll be “expected to resume compliance with all licensing standards related to curriculum, learning environment, and staff qualifications.”
Children older than 2 will be asked to wear masks or face coverings unless they have a medical condition that prevents it.
Pritzker said the state hasn’t seen “significant transmission of COVID-19 in child care settings,” but cautioned “there is much that we still don’t know about this new virus.”
“Therefore, Illinois is implementing a cautious approach that appropriately balances the need to greatly expand child care with the need for prudent restrictions that lessen the risk of spreading the coronavirus,” Pritzker said.
It’s all still contingent on regions of the state continuing to meet coronavirus testing and hospitalization benchmarks for the next week, which they did again Friday, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Officials on Friday also announced the latest 110 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Illinois, along with 2,758 newly confirmed cases of the disease across the state.
Those coronavirus casualties raised Illinois’ death toll to 4,715 and the case tally to 105,444, though most of those who have contracted the virus over the last four months have recovered.
More than half the state’s COVID-19 deaths have happened this month alone. Pritzker’s office has said the pandemic could plateau through June, but the governor earlier this week said he was “optimistic that we are falling from a peak.”
Health officials received 25,113 test results with a positivity rate of about 11%.
While that keeps most of the state on track for the gradual reopening phase next Friday, it’ll take a little longer than that for Chicago. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city will “cautiously reopen” along a slightly longer timeline in early June.