The Restore Illinois plan has five phases, and all regions of the State moved into phase 3 on May 29. There are four regions of the State, and each region may move through the remaining phases at their own pace, depending on when they meet the criteria to do so.

Evanston is in the Northeast Region, along with the rest of Cook County and eight other counties. To move from phase 3 to phase 4, a region must meet certain criteria. The earliest any region may move to phase 4 is June 26. If a region moves into phase 4, many restrictions applicable in phase 3 are loosened up.

The Criteria to Move to Phase 4

The Restore Illinois plan lists five criteria to move from phase 3 to phase 4. The plan states:

Cases and Capacity: The determination of moving from Phase 3 to Phase 4 will be driven by the COVID-19 positivity rate in each region and measures of maintaining regional hospital surge capacity. This data will be tracked from the time a region enters Phase 3, onwards.

  • At or under a 20 percent positivity rate and increasing no more than 10 percentage points over a 14-day period, AND
  • No overall increase (i.e. stability or decrease) in hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illness for 28 days, AND
  • Available surge capacity of at least 14 percent of ICU beds, medical and surgical beds, and ventilators

“Testing: Testing available in region regardless of symptoms or risk factors

“Tracing: Begin contact tracing and monitoring within 24 hours of diagnosis for more than 90% of cases in region.”

On May 28, Gov. Pritzker said that only three of these metrics would be applied to determine if a region could move from phase 3 to 4, and those are the ones listed under the “Cases and Capacity” heading, namely the ones requiring a positivity rate less than 20%, no overall increase in hospital admissions for 28 days, and available surge capacity of at least 14%.

It thus appears that the other criteria applicable to testing and tracing will not be applied. On May 28, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the Director of Illinois Department of Public Health, said the criteria relating to contact tracing was “an internal goal,” and it would not be used to hold a region back from moving to phase 4.

Gov. Pritzker said that the three criteria will start being measured from May 29, the day that the regions moved in to phase 3. For example, a region’s hospitalizations as of May 29 will be used to determine if hospitalizations declined of stabilized for 28 days. Gov. Pritzker said, “The metrics are reset and the impact is measured for 28 days because the idea is to measure and track the impact that is occurring from the time restrictions have been loosened up and parts of the economy have been opened,” due to the move to phase 3.

In explaining why a 28 day period is used, he said, “We see that in other states it sometimes takes three weeks, even more, before you really start to see the effects of an opening up. So that’s why we have a 28 day period for each phase and a monitoring period of 14 days or seven days depending on which metric you’re looking at.”

Given the 28 day period used to measure one of the metrics, Gov. Pritzker said the “earliest possible date” any region could move to phase 4 is June 26.

A region could be put back into phase 2, with the phase 2 restrictions re-imposed, based on the following factors:

  • Sustained rise in positivity rate
  • Sustained increase in hospital admissions for COVID-19 like illness
  • Reduction in hospital capacity threatening surge capabilities
  • Significant outbreak in the region that threatens the health of the region

 “It’s possible that if we have a surge, a spike, and we need to quell that spike, we might potentially have to move backwards in the phases. That’s not something any of us wants to do, but we certainly wouldn’t allow a region of the State to move forward, if it wasn’t meeting the metrics.

“So it’s important that we remain careful about continuing to wear face coverings washing hands, maintain six feet of distance, wiping down surfaces using hand sanitizer and other mitigations. Let’s not move backward, but instead, let’s move forward together.”

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...