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Will Illinois shut down again? What you need to know about Pritzker’s new ‘tier’ plan

The new guidelines and region breakdown aims to take a more granular approach to coronavirus mitigation, targeting smaller areas than the original plan did and separating Chicago into its own region. 

Two young men sit a socially distanced two barber chairs apart as they get haircuts Friday at newly reopened C’Styles Barber Shop in Markham.
Two young men sit a socially distanced two barber chairs apart as they get haircuts Friday at newly reopened C’Styles Barber Shop in Markham.
Annie Costabile / Sun-Times

Editor’s note: As of July 29, the state is no longer using a 3-day average to gauge test positivity. It is using a 7-day average test positivity rate. The triggers for tighter restrictions below have been updated to reflect those changes.

On July 15, Gov. J.B. Pritzker unveiled a new plan to mitigate the continued spread of COVID-19 in Illinois, splitting up the state into 11 regions instead of the four regions outlined in his original Restore Illinois plan.

The new guidelines aim to take a more granular approach to coronavirus mitigation, targeting smaller areas than the original plan did and separating Chicago into its own region.

The plan outlines three tiers of actions that officials can take to slow the spread of coronavirus. If a region surpasses certain thresholds — metrics include percentage of people testing positive, hospital capacity, and rising hospital admissions — then officials can choose to tighten restrictions from a “menu” of options outlined in the new tiered-system.

Municipalities, such as Chicago, can set their own restrictions, as long as they are no less stringent than the governor’s benchmarks.

The tipping points that will trigger tighter restrictions in any given region are based on slightly different metrics than the ones Pritzker measured to move the state between Phase 2, Phase 3 and Phase 4 in the original Restore Illinois plan. New restrictions will now be required if:

  • The 7-day rolling average positivity rate surpasses 8% for three days in a row.

OR if:

  • The 7-day rolling average positivity rate increases for seven out of the past 10 days.

AND if one of the following three data points are met:

  • The number of hospital admissions for COVID-like illness increases for seven days in a row.
  • The percentage of medical surge hospital beds falls below 20%.
  • The percentage of ICU hospital beds falls below 20%.
The 11 regions outlined in the governor’s plan to combat the continued spread of coronavirus in Illinois.
Eric White/Sun-Times

According to the new guidelines, once a region surpasses these thresholds, leadership must consider taking these actions based on the current tier in that region.

The tiers are:

Tier 1

  • Bars and restaurants: Reduce indoor dining capacity and suspend indoor bar service
  • Hospitals: Reduce elective surgeries and procedures; limit visitations at hospitals; implement twice daily bed-reporting
  • Meetings, social events and religious gatherings: Additional limits on gatherings and room capacity
  • Offices: Institute remote work for high risk individuals; continued emphasis on telework for as many workers as possible
  • Organized group recreational activities & gyms: Reduce indoor capacity. Note: While this includes fitness centers, sports, etc., this list is not exhaustive and other industries may be added if indicated by the data
  • Retail: Reduce in-person capacity. Note: This list is not exhaustive and other industries may be added if indicated by the data
  • Salons and personal care: Institute temporary location shutdown tied to outbreak

Tier 2

  • Bars and restaurants: Suspend indoor dining and bar service
  • Hospitals: Suspend elective surgeries and procedures; implement surge capacity; assess need to open alternate care facility
  • Meetings, social events and religious gatherings: Greater limits on gatherings and room capacity
  • Offices: Reduce office capacity with recommendations to resume remote work where possible
  • Organized group recreational activities & gyms: Suspend organized indoor recreational activities. Note: This list is not exhaustive and other industries may be added if indicated by the data
  • Retail: Suspend in-person non-essential retail; online and curbside pick-up available for all. Note: This list is not exhaustive and other industries may be added if indicated by the data
  • Salons and personal care: Institute temporary location shutdown tied to outbreak with possible broader mitigations

Tier 3

  • Bars and restaurants: Suspend in-person dining; takeout only
  • Hospitals: Open alternate care facility
  • Meetings, social events and religious gatherings: Strictest limit to gatherings and room capacity
  • Offices: Institute remote work for all non-essential workers
  • Organized group recreational activities & gyms: Suspend organized indoor and outdoor recreational activities. Note: This list is not exhaustive and other industries may be added if indicated by the data
  • Retail: Suspend all non-essential retail; only essential retail open, such as grocery stores and pharmacies. Note: This list is not exhaustive and other industries may be added if indicated by the data
  • Salons and personal care: Suspend salon and personal care operations

For more information on the plan to potentially shut down businesses again, and to track each region’s progress, check out the Sun-Times coronavirus tracker here.