Illinois Moves To Phase 4 On Friday. Here’s What You Need To Know.

Theaters, zoos and gyms can all reopen with capacity restrictions, and bars and restaurants can start offering limited indoor seating.

photo of two people dining indoors
Diners eat inside at the La Carreta restaurant in Portsmouth, N.H. As Illinois moves to Phase 4 of its reopening plan, restaurants and bars will be allowed to offer limited indoor seating. Charles Krupa / Associated Press
photo of two people dining indoors
Diners eat inside at the La Carreta restaurant in Portsmouth, N.H. As Illinois moves to Phase 4 of its reopening plan, restaurants and bars will be allowed to offer limited indoor seating. Charles Krupa / Associated Press

Illinois Moves To Phase 4 On Friday. Here’s What You Need To Know.

Theaters, zoos and gyms can all reopen with capacity restrictions, and bars and restaurants can start offering limited indoor seating.

Illinois is set to open more of its economy Friday as the state has set the metrics established by Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration in keeping COVID-19 hospitalizations and positive cases relatively low for the past month.

Under Pritzker’s Phase 4 plan, indoor theaters, museums, zoos and fitness centers can all reopen with restrictions as to how many people are allowed inside at one time. Casinos are also allowed to reopen on July 1.

Illinois is reopening just as several other states are now seeing drastic increases in the coronavirus. Pritzker expressed confidence in Illinois’ ability to safely reopen the economy, however, because of the states’ requirement that people wear a mask when around others, in addition to encouraging people to stay socially distant from others and to wash hands.

“This is not to suggest in any way that our battle is over,” Pritzker said Thursday. “But so much progress has been made and if we continue to follow the path the doctors recommend, we can continue our march forward toward more normalcy.”

Here are some of the details on what changes under Illinois’ Phase 4:

Restaurants and retail

Customers can begin to dine and drink indoors at bars and restaurants at 25% capacity, so tables can be distanced at least 6 feet apart. Restaurants can seat no more than 10 people together in one group.

Restaurants that were able to could already seat customers outside in Phase 3.

Offices, retail shops, hair salons and barbers and manufacturers can continue operating in Phase 4. Pritzker’s administration estimates 400,000 more people will return to work in this phase.

Theaters

Indoor theaters for live performances or movies are limited to seating no more than 50 people. For smaller screening rooms, the state is requiring theaters cap attendance at no more than 50% capacity.

Zoos and museums can also reopen at 25% occupancy. Visitors to the Lincoln Park Zoo are encouraged to register their visit in advance on the zoo’s website.

But the National Association of Theatre Owners of Illinois said the state’s requirements are so stringent that many theater owners will choose not to reopen at all.

“For some, it will simply not be feasible to rehire workers, purchase supplies and cover overhead costs if only 50 customers will be allowed in each auditorium,” said Chris Johnson, CEO of Classic Cinemas. “Many theatre auditoriums are quite large and can safely accommodate more viewers while maintaining proper physical distancing and sanitation measures.”

Sports

Seated outdoor stadiums will be allowed to open — along with concession stands — but with limited capacity. Soldier Field, for instance, can fill up to 20% of the stands.

Youth sports and recreational activities for adults can resume. Group sizes will remain limited at no more than 50 people, with indoor facilities also limited to no more than 50% capacity. Spectators can fill no more than 20% of the stands.

Gyms and fitness centers can also reopen across Illinois but at 50% capacity. Bowling alleys and skating rinks are also limited to the lesser of either 50% capacity or 50 people.

Outdoor social gatherings

Overall, the state is limiting all social gatherings at 50 people. Since local governments can establish more stringent rules, however, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration is distinguishing between social gatherings inside versus outside. The city has put a limit on social gatherings outside — such as at an outdoor wedding or picnic — at 100 people.

A spokesman for the mayor’s office argued that requirement falls within the state’s 50-person cap so long as two groups of 50 people stay 30 feet apart. When asked about the city’s 100-person limit on outdoor gatherings earlier this week, Pritzker said getting 100 people together is “a goal,” and reiterated that local governments cannot have looser guidelines than what the state has put forward.

What remains closed

The mayor’s office is also keeping Chicago’s playgrounds and beaches closed, though the city has already reopened the Lakefront path and The 606 for those who continue to move and don’t linger in one spot.

Schools will be allowed to welcome students back for in-class learning in the fall, though the state is letting each individual district decide whether to continue e-learning. Chicago Public Schools has not yet announced its plans.

See more details about what’s open in each phase in this WBEZ and Chicago Reporter-produced guide.

Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics. Follow him @tonyjarnold.