CHICAGO (CBS) — As the state moves closer to the next phase of reopening as early as one week, Gov. JB Pritzker on Friday announced plans to allow for childcare providers to reopen during Phase 3, to allow parents to go back to work as more businesses reopen.
“We can’t have a conversation about going back to work without talking about childcare. If we don’t have childcare, a large portion of the workforce, especially women who too often bear a disproportionate burden, will be without any way to move forward without caring for their child themselves,” Pritzker said.
The governor said more than 2,500 home childcare providers and 700 childcare centers have been able to operate as emergency providers during the past few months, but that’s only about 15% of the state’s capacity before the pandemic.
Pritzker said, under guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health, all 5,500 childcare providers that are currently closed would be able to open with no more than 10 children per classroom when Phase 3 of reopening begins. After four weeks, they will be able to expand to larger capacity.
While most licensed home daycare centers would likely be able to expand to full capacity after four weeks, Pritzker said other daycare centers would be limited to roughly 30% capacity. Daycare centers that had been operating as emergency providers the past few months would be able to expand to the new capacity limits immediately when their region of the state enters Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan.
“With all centers and homes online, this would bring us to more than three quarters of our previous childcare landscape in Illinois,” Pritzker said. “Most licensed childcare homes will also be able to reopen to their licensed capacity, recognizing childrens’ need for quality early learning experiences. All providers will be expected to resume compliance with all licensing standards related to curriculum, learning environment and staff qualifications.”
With another 110 deaths from COVID-19, and 2,758 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the past day, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike urged people across Illinois to continue following social distancing guidelines as they mark the Memorial Day weekend.
“I know, in the absence of parades, we still want to find ways to honor and celebrate those who have given their lives while serving this country, again in a safe and socially-distanced way,” Ezike said Friday. “I know this weekend is supposed to unofficially kick off the summer season; and that traditionally included graduation parties, and pool openings, and the like. So, although it’s unfortunate that we can’t throw a barbecue with 100 of our friends, I think it’s clear why we are in that situation, and I know that you’re doing your part to make sure that we will get to celebrations that we can celebrate with more normalcy in the future.”
As of Friday afternoon, Illinois has had a total of 105,444 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 4,715 deaths, according to Ezike.
As of Thursday night, 3,9828 people in Illinois were being treated in hospitals, including 1,060 in intensive care, and 589 on ventilators.
“This is not an easy time, but until we have a vaccine and reliable treatment, we need to learn how to coexist with COVID. The virus is till out there, and your individual human behavior – including wearing a mask and keeping six feet of distance – those are the weapons that we have right now to overcome this virus. Let’s continue to hang in there, let’s do the right thing,” Ezike said.
Pritzker said the entire state of Illinois remains on track to move to the next phase of the reopening plan in one week, although Mayor Lori Lightfoot said earlier in the day that the city would not move to Phase 3 until early June.
Under Phase 3 of Restore Illinois, non-essential manufacturing, offices, and retail businesses would be allowed to reopen under approved safety guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Remote work, whenever possible, would still be encouraged.
Barber shops and salons would be allowed to reopen; and gyms and fitness clubs would be allowed to offer outdoor classes and one-on-one training; all with IDPH guidance. State parks also would be allowed to reopen, as would limited childcare and summer programs. Non-essential public gatherings of up to 10 people would be allowed, as opposed to the current limit of only essential gatherings of up to 10 people.
Earlier this week, Pritzker announced bars and restaurants also would be able open outdoor service during Phase 3, but still would not be allowed to serve customers indoors until Phase 4. Tables outdoors would have to be six feet apart from each other, and staff would have to wear face coverings and take other social distancing precautions.
The governor said his administration will soon be releasing public health guidelines for those businesses to open and expand services.
Pritzker also said he’s also working with religious leaders on how to safely expand services during the next phase, which maintains a limit of 10 people for public gatherings. The governor said he’s received several ideas from religious groups, and noted that outdoor services – including drive-through services – are already welcome alternatives for traditional religious services.
“We continue to collaborate with faith leaders to ensure that they can hold services in safe and creative ways that allow for worship while protecting their congregants. I know worship is as essential as food and water for most of us, and it’s my priority to provide guidance to ensure that it can proceed safely,” he said.
President Donald Trump on Friday said he has deemed religious services an essential activity during the pandemic, and he wants governors to allow churches to reopen this weekend. The president said he would “override” any governors who don’t agree to do so, although it’s unclear what authority he would have to do so.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who briefed reporters after the president’s announcement, declined to explain what Mr. Trump meant when he said he would “override” governors.
“That’s up to the governors,” she said about reopening houses of worship.
Pritzker did not directly address Trump’s threat to “override” governors who do not allow churches to fully reopen.
“We’re gradually moving in that direction, but there’s no doubt the most important thing is we do not want parishioners to get ill because their faith leaders bring them together. We hope that faith leaders will continue to do as the vast majority of them have done, which is to worship, sometimes online, sometimes in other capacities – as we’ve talked about, outdoor and drive-in,” Pritzker said.