Pritzker Still Not Clear On When Fuller Reopening Possible Even As More Illinoisans Eligible For Vaccines

ILLINOIS — Despite more vaccine doses coming to the state and the expansion of those eligible to get the vaccine, Gov. J.B. Pritzker still won’t say when the state will enter Phase 5 of his COVID-19 reopening plan.

Thursday marks the beginning of the governor’s expansion of who can get the COVID-19 vaccine. The expansion includes anyone with underlying health conditions. A third vaccine may soon be available after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine meets requirements for the agency’s emergency-use authorization.

At a stop in Peoria at a vaccination site Wednesday, Pritzker announced the White House plans to send the state 100,000 doses a day by mid-March. But, the governor didn’t give a specific timeframe of when capacity restrictions will be lifted with his Phase 5.

“We’re about 1-in-7 Illinoisans already has their first dose in their arms,” Pritzker said. “We need to get closer to herd immunity.”

He didn’t elaborate on what constitutes “herd immunity.” But he said things are open right now.

“We’ve not had a stay-at-home order since back in April and May,” Pritzker said. “Restaurants are open, bars are open, all across the state of Illinois, gyms are open, we have sports running in our schools, and so on. Not to the extent that we’d all like.”

Last week, Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia told a Senate committee the state needs a plan to reopen, and that should include allowing restaurant and hospitality workers to get the vaccine.

“Not [Phase] 1C, 1B,” Toia said. “We need a plan for predictability and getting workers vaccinated is very important.”

Toia said Illinois’ hospitality sector can’t survive another summer with the current capacity limits of no more than 50 people. He said without clarity on when they’ll be a fuller reopening in Illinois, convention organizers will choose other states and never come back.

“When we lose conventions, we lose the mass infusions of spending, restaurant visits, hotel stays and ultimately tax revenues that go to the state and our local municipalities,” Toia said.

The Center Square – Greg Bishop

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience and hosts the WMAY Morning Newsfeed out of Springfield.