Illinois enters Bridge Phase of Gov. Pritzker's reopening plan with 1,841 COVID cases, 49 deaths

Saturday, May 15, 2021
Chicago, Illinois enter Bridge Phase of reopening
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Bars can stay open later. Patrons can stand. Capacity is increased for attractions, stores, restaurants and more. Illinois is officially in its Bridge Phase.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois and Chicago entered the Bridge Phase of reopening Friday, the final step before complete reopening.

Moving into the Bridge Phase required 70% of Illinoisans 65 and older to have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. As of Friday, 81% of people 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Meanwhile, if health and hospital metrics remain stable for 28 days in the Bridge Phase, Illinois will be able to move to Phase 5, which means full reopening with no restrictions. Full reopening also requires at least 50% of residents 16 and over to have received at least one dose of the vaccine. As of Friday, nearly 58% of Illinoisans 16 and older have received at least one COVID vaccine dose.

Amusement activities like Chicago's famed architecture boat tours can now run at 60% capacity.

"We're hoping to expand our schedule a little bit. Right now we're working Friday, Saturday, Sunday but hoping to open that up," said Gabriel Argumedo, director of vessel operations for Chicago First Lady Cruises.

Kayakers can linger on the Chicago River into the evening now that Navy Pier fireworks will again light up the city.

"We're excited to have an extended operating day. We were shutting everything down at 8 o'clock last year and now some of our nighttime stuff will go as late as 11 Saturday nights," said James Morro of Urban Kayak.

Extended hours also apply to old city haunts that have a license to serve until 4 a.m., but only fully vaccinated patrons can stay that late. By state guidelines the unvaccinated have to leave at 2 a.m.

"How do we monitor that??" bemoaned Peter Stark, owner of O'Callaghan's. "Are we supposed to check vaccination cards? I thought right away, that's going to be a problem. You're asking people to see their vaccination card, I can only imagine you run in to some resistance there."

It also wasn't a schedule the bars operating on bare bone staffing were prepared for.

"We don't have the staff to stay open 'til 4 at this point," said Rob Harvey, O'Callaghan's bartender.

"All these bars down the street are experiencing the same thing," Stark said.

But for the first time in more than a year patrons can now stand in bars, and unmask if the establishment allows.

For baseball stadiums, in the Bridge Phase vaccinated fans don't count toward capacity totals, which is now 60%. They can sit in a special section without distancing once proof of vaccination is presented.

White Sox fans headed to Guaranteed Rate field for a double header, excited by the new phase and the beautiful Friday weather. The ballpark will remain at 25% capacity for Friday's game, but will move on to the higher capacity next week.

"That's gonna be awesome! Hopefully ticket prices will go down a bit," said Sox fan Joe Santos.

Fans still have to wear masks inside the park, but few are complaining.

"I think they will pack them in. The team is great," said Glenn Jones, a longtime Sox fan.

IL follows CDC mask guidance allowing vaccinated people to take it off indoors most of the time

Moving forward, fans showing proof of vaccination on the South Side and at Wrigley will be eligible to sit in special sections without spacing, and they won't count toward capacity, allowing for more spectators.

"Having the opportunity to be vaccinated and be amongst your friends is what summer and watching the White Sox is all about," said White Sox fan Anthony Garritano.

"It represents another steppingstone to where we are going down this journey," said White Sox fan Kevin Hilmers.

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Some, however, are still a bit hesitant.

"It is exciting," said Larry Flennoy. "I am still a little apprehensive about it though because you don't know who is vaccinated and who is not, so I have not been going to any restaurants."

The Bridge Phase means places like retail stores, fitness centers, museums and amusement parks can open at 60% capacity. Special events can allow for 250 people inside and 500 outside.

Jim Brinkley is part owner of Pro Fitness Sports Academy in Pilsen. They will now be able to operate close to normal.

"It's a good thing for all small businesses. We can get more clients inside our businesses," said Brinkley.

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"You never open a restaurant to open at 60 or 70%; you gotta operate at 100% the days that you're busy," Sanchez said. "Is it enough? No. Are we happy that we're here? Yes. We're excited."

Many restaurant owners hope people will choose to get vaccinated, which will help drive it all forward.

"I mean here's the thing: Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, I mean you gotta get the vaccine," Sanchez said.

Gov. JB Pritzker announced Thursday Six Flags Great America is offering 50,000 free tickets to its parks in Gurnee and Rockford to newly-vaccinated residents.

The announcement comes as Illinois public health officials reported 1,841 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 and 49 related deaths Friday.

Vaccine incentives hope to push people to get their shots

There have been 1,363,507 total COVID cases, including 22,369 deaths in the state since the pandemic began.

Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported testing 83,624 specimens for a total of 23,677,720 since the pandemic began.

The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from May 7 to May 13, is 3.1%.

As of Thursday night, 1,708 patients in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 425 patients were in the ICU and 237 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

A total of 10,229,330 vaccines have been administered in Illinois as of Thursday night. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 72,767 doses. There were 50,326 doses reported administered in Illinois Thursday.

RELATED: IL COVID Update: State moves into reopening Bridge Phase May 14, Phase 5 on June 11, Pritzker says

The deaths reported Friday include:

- Boone County: 1 male 80s

- Cook County: 2 females 50s, 3 males 50s, 1 male 60s, 1 female 70s, 2 males 70s, 2 females 80s, 2 females 90s, 1 male 90s

- DuPage County: 1 female 60s, 1 male 60s

- Edgar County: 1 female 50s

- Ford County: 1 female 40s

- Franklin County: 1 male 60s

- Fulton County: 1 female 50s

- Hancock County: 1 female 70s

- Henry County: 1 female 80s

- Jersey County: 1 male 70s

- Kane County: 1 female 40s, 1 female 70s, 1 male 70s

- Kendall County: 1 female 60s

- Madison County: 1 female 70s

- McHenry County: 1 male 70s, 1 male 80s, 1 female 90s

- Morgan County: 1 female 60s

- Peoria County: 1 female 40s, 1 male 50s, 2 males 60s, 1 female 80s

- Rock Island County: 1 male 70s, 1 female 90s, 1 male 90s

- Schuyler County: 1 male 90s

- St. Clair County: 1 male 60s

- Stephenson County: 1 female 80s, 1 female 90s

- Tazewell County: 1 male 50s

- Whiteside County: 1 male 40s

- Williamson County: 1 male 80s

- Winnebago County: 1 male 90s