As COVID-19 numbers continue to retreat, so too do restrictions imposed by the state of Illinois.
Region 10, which encompasses all of suburban Cook County, was moved on Tuesday, Feb. 2, from Tier 1 to Phase 4 of the mitigation ladder managed by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Phase 4 allows for more retail and service shop openings, larger gatherings (up to 50) and more recreational activities.
“It’s going to help fitness a lot — like yoga studios — and salons and spas,” said Julie Yusim, the executive director of the Wilmette-Kenilworth Chamber of Commerce who remains cautiously optimistic. “… I feel a collective sigh of relief. We got this permission, which is so exciting, but then there’s the implementation. People still have to start coming back in. It’s wonderful … but everyone still has to proceed cautiously.”
Indoor dining must remain at 25 percent capacity, but under Phase 4, table size can be increased to 10 people.
Many local restaurants — such as Valley Lodge and Ridgeview Grill in Wilmette and 501 Local in Winnetka — are serving diners on-site; but others, such as The Noodle in Wilmette, continue to offer carryout services only.
One of the most anticipated changes under Phase 4 is the allowance of competition for “higher-risk” sports, identified by the state as basketball, football, wrestling and hockey.
Of those, basketball and hockey are the only sports in-season, with football set to begin in March and wrestling in April.
In all indoor sports, including basketball, participants must wear masks during play. Outdoor sports that can adhere to 6 feet of distance do not need masks, according to the state.
Loyola Academy has announced a doubleheader against Maine South Friday night, Feb. 5, to kick off the basketball season.
A five-phase mitigation ladder was first announced by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in the spring of 2020. The state was divided into 11 regions, which could move through the phases depending on COVID-19 measurables — such as positivity rate and hospitalizations — within the region.
As more was learned about the coronavirus, Phase 4, also called “Resurgence,” was broken out into three mitigation tiers. Once a region passes through the tiers, it reaches Phase 4.
All regions have been improving on the ladder in 2021, and Region 10 is the eighth region to move to Phase 4. Fellow suburban regions 8 (western suburbs) and 9 (Lake and McHenry counties) are on track to reach the phase this week.
To reach Phase 4, regions must show a sustained decrease (7 of 10 days) in hospitalizations, average ICU-bed capacity above 20 percent for three days and average below 6.5 percent positivity rate for three days.
Region 10 has 143 straight days of decreased hospitalizations, 51 straight days of plus-20 percent ICU-bed capacity and three straight days of sub-6.5 percent positivity as of Jan. 30.
Inside of Region 10, New Trier Township’s positivity rate has fallen to 3.9 percent as of Tuesday, Feb. 2.
The improved numbers come as the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, which is in Phase 1b (essential workers and seniors 65-plus). Eligible individuals can attempt to sign up here: https://vaccine.cookcountyil.gov/
As of Tuesday, Feb. 2, the state of Illinois has administered 1.03 million vaccine doses, with 120,668 going to individuals in suburban Cook County, state data shows.
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