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Gov. JB Pritzker Issues Guidance For State's Reopening In One Week

CHICAGO (CBS) -- One week before Illinois is set to fully reopen, Gov. JB Pritzker's office has issued guidance on what that will mean for residents and businesses.

Pritzker has said the state will begin Phase 5 of its Restore Illinois plan on Friday, June 11, meaning the state will lift all capacity restrictions on restaurants, bars, retailers, and all other businesses.

While that means the return of festivals, concerts, conventions, and other large gatherings, it doesn't mean there won't be any restrictions in place to continue limiting the spread of COVID-19.

The governor's office said, while people who have been fully vaccinated no longer need to wear a mask in most circumstances, face coverings will still be required when people are riding public transportation or in congregate settings like schools, hospitals, daycare centers, and correctional facilities.

In addition, people who haven't been fully vaccinated are still urged to wear masks in public.

However, Pritzker will lift the outdoor mask requirement for all Illinois schools, in line with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Meantime, while businesses will no longer be subject to capacity limits from the state, individual businesses may still set their own masking and social distancing rules for customers. Local governments also can impose tougher restrictions, although Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said Chicago will enter Phase 5 on June 11 along with the rest of the state.

"After a tremendously challenging year, Illinois has now reached a defining moment in our efforts to defeat COVID-19," Pritzker said in a statement. "Thanks to the hard work of residents across the state, Illinois will soon resume life as we knew it before – returning to events, gatherings, and a fully reopened economy, with some of the safety guidelines we've adopted still in place. As we fully reopen, this administration remains laser focused on ensuring a strong recovery for our small businesses and communities."

The new guidance comes as new cases and hospitalizations from COVID-19 in Illinois continue to fall, with the state's average infection rate reaching a new all-time low on Friday.

The seven-day average statewide case positivity rate in Illinois is down to 1.3%, the lowest ever reported by IDPH.

Illinois is averaging 586 new cases per day over the past week, down 59% from two weeks ago. It's also the lowest daily case average in more than a year, since the last seven days of March 2020.

As of Thursday night, a total of 901 coronavirus patients were hospitalized in Illinois, the fewest ever reported since the state began tracking virus hospitalizations in April 2020.

The state has been under evolving COVID-19 restrictions since last March, when the governor first issued a stay-at-home order. Many restrictions were gradually lifted last summer after COVID-19 cases started to dip, but the state began issuing new restrictions when a second wave of cases began last fall.

Statewide restrictions have gradually been lifted since the beginning of this year as cases have started to dwindle again, and vaccines have rolled out.

The Illinois Department of Public Health said more than two-thirds of the state's population have had at least one dose of the vaccine, and more than half of the state's residents have been fully vaccinated.

Pritzker and IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike urged people who haven't been vaccinated yet to get a shot to limit the chance of another surge in cases later this year that would require new COVID restrictions.

"This pandemic has robbed us of many of our freedoms such as going to ball games and concerts, celebrating graduations, weddings, and birthdays, going to dinner with friends, and even sharing a hug with loved ones we don't live with," Ezike said in a statement. "The vaccine is giving us our freedoms back and allowing us to move to Phase 5.  Let's keep the vaccination momentum going so we can put this pandemic in the rearview mirror and not look back."

Additional information on the state's Phase 5 guidelines is available on the IDPH website.

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