Illinois COVID vaccine: IL to expand vaccination eligibility to residents 16 and over on April 12

Gov. Pritzker also announced a new Bridge reopening phase in between Phases 4, 5
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Gov. JB Pritzker announced Thursday that Illinois is expanding vaccine eligibility to anyone aged 16 and older starting on April 12.

But Pritzker and health officials continue to warn the public that due to limited vaccine supplies, not all who become eligible that day will be able to get vaccinated on the first day they are eligible.

Residents who don't have access to or need assistance navigating online services can call the toll-free IDPH hotline at 833-621-1284 to book an appointment. The hotline is open 7 days a week from 6 a.m. to midnight with agents available in English and Spanish.

Gov. Pritzker also announced that the state will be adding a bridge phase between reopening Phases 4 and 5, based on science and offering incremental approaches towards a full Illinois reopening.

EMBED More News Videos

Governor Pritzker announces a new phase in his reopening plan as well as expanding vaccine eligibility to everyone over 16 on April 12.



"COVID-19 has not gone away, but the light we can see at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter and brighter as more people get vaccinated," Pritzker said.

If vaccinations continue at their current rate, in a matter of weeks the state will allow more people to shop, dine out, and attend social events

The step between Phase 4 and 5 will allow for greater capacity limits for bars and restaurants, social gatherings, museums and zoos, etc., depending on whether they are indoors or outdoors. Bars, specifically, will be allowed 20% standing capacity, but six-foot social distancing will still be required.

"We'll move into this bridge phase when 70% of our 65 and older population receives at least one dose of the vaccine," Pritzker said. The state's mask mandate will continue.

"We're working with industry leaders," Governor Pritzker said. "We're working with our doctors at IDPH as well as other experts in the state."

For now Chicago is not adopting the new state guidelines for vaccinations or reopening, but will be reviewing the plans and an update is expected next week.

SEE ALSO | Chicago Phase 1C vaccine start date set for March 29
EMBED More News Videos

Chicago will move into Phase 1C for vaccinations on March 29, with appointments set to be available to more essential workers and residents with health conditions.



The bridge phase will mean people can look forward to more traditional summer activities like concerts, because capacity will increase to 60%. Retail, offices, salons, health clubs and museums would also be allowed 60% capacity. Social events like weddings could have up to 250 people inside, and 500 guests outside.

"It's super exciting because we work with a lot of brides, a lot of social functions, and everyone just wants to meet with each other, they want to get back out there, they want to create a sense of normalcy again," said Rachel Westberg, director of sales and catering for The Rose Hotel.

The state must also maintain a 20% or lower ICU bed availability and hold hospital admissions and case rate steady over a 28-day period. As of Thursday morning, 58% of people over 65 had received at least one vaccine.

So far, 28% of Illinoisans 16 and older have gotten one dose, and if that increases to 50% and health metrics remain stable for 28 days, Illinois would finally move on Phase 5. If everything goes perfectly, that could happen as early as the beginning of May.

Individuals who have proof of vaccination or a negative PCR COVID test 1 to 3 days prior do not count against capacity limits

The state will revert back to an earlier phase if there is an increase in cases and hospitalizations.

There are also talks about allowing conventions to return. For the Rose Hotel in Rosemont near O'Hare, it means more employees can come back to work.

"I think there's a lot of people who are eager to get back to work and I do think talking to clients waiting for things to open up people are ready to go so I think when we get the green light things are going to be explosive," Westberg said.

Chicago also announced Wednesday that it will expand vaccine eligibility to Phase 1C on March 29.

"I'm excited for it because I've been trying, and I can't get it," said Christopher Hunt, owner of Seek Vintage in West Town. "So now that means I may be able to get it."

And along with retail workers, those in hospitality, personal care services, law construction and more are eligible in phase 1C.

In 1C, Chicagoans 16 to 64 are also eligible, but only if they have chronic health conditions. The state will lift that health requirement for that group on April 12, but it's unclear if the city will, too.

Suburban Cook County is expanding its eligibility starting Monday, March 22, as the county moves to Phase 1B+, which includes people younger than 65 with underlying conditions.

The county said nearly 70% of its seniors have received at least one dose, and that progress is also leading to this expansion announcement.
Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.