News Local/State

Ask The Newsroom: Restore Illinois Explained, Dental Care Reopening And More


Kurt Bielema/Illinois Newsroom

The Illinois Newsroom team is answering questions from listeners to navigate this unprecedented time. Have a question you want answered? Ask here.

In today’s edition of Ask the Newsroom, we’ve answered questions about the Restore Illinois plan, dental care in Illinois and protections for meatpackers.

Please note, the information below is accurate as of May 14, 2020.

Restore Illinois Plan

Q: In regard to the five-phase Restore Illinois plan, where can I find the current status for each health region listed out in the plan? For example, we are currently in Phase 2, but I cannot seem to find a counter that reflects the best case scenario to hit Phase 3. Small business owners, like myself, need this information available to help plan the reopening of our businesses and notify staff in advance.

This week, the state unveiled a Restore Illinois Regional Scorecard to track how each of the four regions is performing in all of the criteria required to move to the next phase of the plan. As of Thursday, May 14, three of the four regions are meeting all of the criteria to move to Phase 3. 

The exception is the northeast region, which includes Chicago. It's falling short in one category: the percentage of positivity (the percentage of total COVID-19 tests that return positive), which is currently higher than the required 20% limit. 

As of right now, the earliest any of the four regions can move to Phase 3 is Monday, May 28, so regional data could change. 

Q: Why can’t outdoor events be held in rural areas (or areas with fewer cases) throughout 2020?

While gatherings of 50 people or fewer will be allowed in Phase 4, any major conventions, festivals or large events won’t be allowed until Phase 5, when a vaccine or treatment is available.

“Rural areas aren’t subject to different requirements than other regions in the state," according to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (IDCEO).

Q: What are the protective measures salons and barbershops will put in place when social distancing is difficult when working with clients?

According to the Restore Illinois plan, hair salons and barbershops will be allowed to re-open in Phase 3 with safety guidelines approved by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). Some of those guidelines include encouraging employees who are sick to stay home, providing flexible sick leave policies, requiring employees to wash their hands frequently as well as sanitizing the salon/work environment (particularly frequently touched surfaces like workstations and doorknobs).

The IDCEO says it's working on developing industry-specific guidelines throughout the different phases of re-opening, which “will be available in the coming weeks.”

Statewide Five Phase Plan

Phase 1: Rapid Spread 

This phase began with the original stay-at-home order in March. The number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital was steadily increasing. Social distancing was implemented to slow the spread of the virus and prevent a surge that could have overwhelmed the health care system.


What is open:

  • Essential gatherings, like religious services, of 10 or fewer.
  • Child care in groups of 10 or fewer for essential workers.
  • Walking, hiking and biking permitted.
  • Essential manufacturing only.
  • Employees of “non-essential” businesses are required to work from home except for Minimum Basic Operations.
  • Restaurants are open for delivery, pickup and drive-thru only.

How to move to the next phase: The state must show signs of slowing new case growth and have the ability to handle surge capacity in terms of hospital beds and ventilators. As far as testing, there must be at least 10,000 tests administered per day and testing readily available for any symptomatic health care workers and first responders.

Phase 2: Flattening

In this phase, the rate of infections begins to slow. Hospital capacity stabilizes and testing capacity increases to help limit the spread. Face coverings must be worn whenever social distancing is not possible. 


What is open:

  • Elective procedures allowed as long as IDPH criteria is met.
  • Walking, hiking and biking is permitted along with boating and fishing at select state parks. Golf courses are open to small groups.
  • Essential stores are open with restrictions; non-essential stores open for delivery and curbside pickup.
  • Everything in Phase 1 remains open.

How to move to the next phase: The transition into the next phase depends on how well equipped hospitals are to handle surge capacity.  The illness must have a positivity rate of 20% or less and increase no more than 10 percentage points over a two week period. Also, there can be no overall increase in hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illnesses for four weeks.

Testing will be available for all patients, health care workers, first responders and people with underlying conditions. 

Phase 3: Recovery

In this phase, the illness is stable or declining. Face coverings are still required in public but gatherings of 10 or fewer are allowed.


What is open (with safety guidance from IDPH):

  • Travelers should follow guidance from IDPH and CDC.
  • All health care providers.
  • Limited child care and summer programs.
  • Non-essential manufacturing.
  • Employees of non-essential businesses are allowed to return to work with IDPH-approved safety guidance; however, tele-work is strongly encouraged whenever possible. Employers are also encouraged to provide accommodations for COVID-19-vulnerable employees.
  • Barbershops and salons.
  • Health and fitness clubs can provide outdoor classes and one-on-one personal training.
  • Everything from Phase 2.

How to move to the next phase: Moving from Phase 3 to Phase 4 will be determined by the COVID-19 positivity rate in each region and the status of regional hospital's surge capacity. The positivity rate must be at or under 20% and increasing no more than 10 percentage points over a 14-day period. Additionally, there can be no overall increase (i.e. stability or decrease) in hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illnesses for 28 days.

Phase 4: 


In this phase, there's a continued decline in infection rate and the restoration of "normal."


What is open:

  • Gatherings of 50 people or fewer are allowed, but that is subject to change based on the latest data and guidance from IDPH and the CDC.
  • Travel should follow IDPH- and CDC-approved guidance.
  • K-12 schools, higher education, all summer programs and child care. 
  • All outdoor recreation.
  • All manufacturing open with IDPH-approved safety guidance.
  • All employees return to work with IDPH-approved safety guidance; employers are encouraged to provide accommodations for COVID-19-vulnerable employees.
  • Bars and restaurants can open with capacity limits and IDPH-approved safety guidance.
  • All barbershops, salons, spas and health and fitness clubs open with capacity limits.
  • Cinema and theaters open with capacity limits.
  • All retail can open with capacity limits and IDPH-approved safety guidance.
  • Everything from Phase 3.

How to move to the next phase:  Vaccine, effective and widely available treatment, or the elimination of new cases over a sustained period of time through herd immunity or other factors.  

Phase 5: Illinois Restored

Testing, tracing and treatment are widely available throughout the state. 


What is open:

  • Everything is open, but must follow IDPH-approved guidance.

*If there is a surge at any time, the state will regress back to the safest phase*

Chicago Five Phase Plan

Phase 1: Strict stay-at-home 

Strict social distancing enforced where people should only be outside and around other people when absolutely necessary.

Phase 2: Stay-at-home

Face masks are required when outside. Stay home as much as possible in an effort to continue flattening the curve.

Phase 3: Cautiously Reopen

Cautiously reopening some businesses such as non-profits, city work and select retail along with limited public amenities. Face masks still required in public.

Phase 4: Gradually Resume

Staggered opening of most businesses with capacity restrictions and continued social distancing with face covering precautions.

Phase 5: Protect

Some events begin again and all businesses are open. 

Routine dental care

Q: When will dentist offices reopen in Illinois?

As part of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s modified stay-at-home order that took effect in May, non-emergency dental care in Illinois was allowed to resume beginning May 11. The Illinois Department of Public Health published guidelines for dental practices on how to safely resume routine oral and dental care.

Prior to May 11, IDPH advised providers to limit dental care to emergency and urgent procedures only. 

IDPH notes that continuing to delay non-emergency dental care could lead to an over-reliance on antibiotics and painkillers to manage oral health issues that could have otherwise been managed or prevented by routine dental care. The result of continuing to delay non-emergency dental care, in some cases, could be “patient complications, poorer prognoses, as well as the need for more complex and costly corrective oral and dental care,” according to IDPH.

To provide dental care in a safe manner, IDPH recommends dentists consider the health care needs of patients, assess the risks and benefits of any procedure, and to screen patients for COVID-19 symptoms one to two days prior to the appointment and upon arrival at the office.

Dentists may choose to have patients tested for COVID-19 prior to coming in for dental care, but testing is not required.

Even for patients who are test negative for COVID-19, IDPH guidelines state that since false-negative test results may occur, and people “could begin shedding the virus the day after a negative test result is obtained," providers should take precautions recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Dental Association for infection control and prevention of COVID-19 transmission, regardless of a patient’s test results.

IDPH recommends providers use phone screening and telehealth to determine whether patients need to visit in-person, and should discourage accompanying visitors unless necessary to get patients home safely, to calm a young child or to accommodate a disability.

The guidance from IDPH includes criteria for determining which dental care procedures are considered low, moderate or high risk for aerosol production — a process that results in the formation of droplets suspended in the air that may carry the coronavirus, and could put health care providers at greater risk.

For moderate or high-risk procedures, IDPH recommends, at minimum, the use of fitted N95 masks or higher-level respirators with full face shield protection and a gown. The Illinois State Dental Society has been advocating for the governor’s office to prioritize dentistry for the distribution of personal protective equipment.

Protections for Meatpackers

Q: With Abbott Labs in this state, why is it taking days for meat processing plant employees to get test results, why can't they get the rapid results tests? What else is being done to protect these employees?

Abbott Labs recently released a rapid response COVID-19 test, called ID Now, which can give positive results in five minutes and negative results in 13. The test was given emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration and began shipping out April 1. 

However, it could take months for those kinds of tests to be widely available due to the amount of time it takes to manufacture them. Additionally, the instruments needed to run those tests are costly, and some hospitals might not be able to afford them. 

In terms of protections for meatpacking plant workers, most companies assure they’re implementing social distancing as much as possible. According to companies such as Smithfield, JBS and Tyson, meatpackers have access to additional personal protective equipment, are regularly screened for COVID-19 symptoms and are encouraged to stay home if symptoms arise. Some companies are increasing sanitizing and disinfecting efforts inside facilities and are putting up plexiglass barriers between workers when social distancing can’t be maintained, such as on production lines.

However, after President Trump ordered meatpacking plants to reopen, some local health officials expressed concern that plants weren’t closed long enough. Officials say they’re worried reopening plants too soon could lead to more infections.