Vaccines Open April 12 to All Illinoisans 16+, New “Bridge” Phase

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All Illinois residents aged 16 or older will be eligible for vaccines against COVID-19 starting on April 12, per today’s press conference with Governor J.B. Pritzker.

Prior to that date, more at-risk populations will become eligible to ensure vulnerable and exposed residents still have priority access to the vaccines. Governor Pritzker said they’re also working with local health departments to reserve specific vaccination days for reserved populations.

“By mid-April we will be at a point where dividing the population up into phases won’t make sense with the increasing supply of vaccines we expect to see,” said Governor Pritzker.

However, the governor also asked for patience. The Illinois Department of Public Health expects the supply of the vaccine to continue to increase, but there could still be delays due to increased demand. Those who will become eligible on April 12 should contact their local health department (DuPage, Will) to find out when they can start making appointments. Governor Pritzker said health departments know how many vaccines they will have three weeks in advance, so appointments can typically made up to two weeks in advance.

New “Bridge Phase”

Governor Pritzker also announced the creation of a new Bridge Phase between Phase 4 and Phase 5. That will allow for increased capacity limits for both indoor and outdoor settings.

Assuming health metrics remain stable, Illinois can enter the Bridge Phase once 70% of seniors receive at least one dose of the vaccine. The state is currently at 58% of seniors with at least one dose.

After at least 28 days (two full incubation periods) in the Bridge Phase, and assuming health metrics continue to stay stable, Illinois will move into Phase 5 once at least 50% of all residents 16 years and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine. That number today is 28%.

“We have come so far Illinois. maybe we have to go just a little bit further,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “Maybe we’re in the 25th mile of this marathon, but we will keep going because the finish line is in sight.”

Masks Still Required

Phase 5 will essentially allow businesses to return to normal with no capacity limits. However, Dr. Ezike said the state will continue to require masks in public situations until the Centers for Disease Control provides guidance that masks are no longer necessary.

“While vaccination is key to getting back to some sense of normal, we must continue to implement public health measures,” she said.

“We won’t be foolish throwing away our best weapon as we head into the last leg of this fight,” Governor Pritzker added.

Last week, the CDC advised that groups of fully-vaccinated people can gather indoors without masks or social distancing. It also said vaccinated people can meet with low-risk individuals without masks or social-distancing. For example, full-vaccinated grandparents can meet with healthy children and grandchildren. However, masks are still recommended for vaccinated people when out in public.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter and brighter as more people get vaccinated and I am more optimistic today than at any point in the past year,” said Governor Pritzker.

Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.

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