Pritzker to expand vaccine eligibility, add extra “bridge” phase

State News

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WMBD) — Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday made two big announcements about the state’s “Restore Illinois” five-phase COVID-19 plan.

Starting April 12, all Illinois residents age 16 and up will be eligible for vaccination, more than two weeks ahead of the May 1 goal set by President Joe Biden.

Once 70% of seniors 65 and up receive their first vaccination and ICU bed usage is below 20%, the governor said Illinois will move into a new “Bridge Phase,” which will serve as a 28-day transition period with “higher capacity limits and increased business operations.”

So far, about 60% of seniors have received at least one dose, and ICU bed usage is below 30%.

Once half the eligible population in Illinois receive their first shot and ICU bed usage remains under 20% for an additional 28 days, the governor said the state will finally reach Phase 5, fully re-opening. The state has been stuck in Phase 4 since last summer.

“It’s time to begin to cautiously move towards normalcy and it’s imperative that we do so in a way that maintains all the progress that we’ve made to date,” said Pritzker.

Also, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike announced a newly launched vaccine call center.

“That is to assist people who may not be able to make appointments online, call agents will help individuals who do have access to online services but need help navigating the various registration sites,” Ezike said.

As of Wednesday morning, the governor said more than 4.3 million doses have been administered throughout the state.

“Illinois is a leader among the large population states in getting first doses in arms… Illinois is averaging 1,000 vaccinations a day, that’s about 1% of all adults in Illinois getting a shot a day,” said. Pritzker.

And as far as masks go, the governor said the mandate will remain in place until the CDC recommends otherwise.

“We won’t be foolish throwing away our best weapon heading into the last lap of this fight.”

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