CHICAGO (CBS) — Southern Illinois became the first region of the state to be allowed to lift the ban on indoor dining on Saturday, after public health officials confirmed it had met the requirements to move to Tier 1 of COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
The move to Tier 1 mitigations for Southern Illinois (Region 5) comes just one day after Gov. JB Pritzker announced the state was loosening the requirements to resume indoor dining and bar service, although until Saturday, no region had yet met the new criteria.READ MORE: Feds Seize 65,000 Counterfeit N95 Masks At O'Hare International Airport
Region 5 (Alexander, Edwards, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Marion, Massac, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Saline, Union, Wabash, Wayne, White, and Williamson counties) was among three parts of the state that were moved to Tier 2 restrictions on Friday, which allowed for the resumption of group classes at gyms and fitness centers, for the return of lower-risk youth and recreational sports, and for the reopening of museums, theaters, and other cultural institutions at 25% capacity. Casinos also will be allowed to reopen at 25% capacity.
Region 1 and Region 2 remain under Tier 2 mitigations, but both are on track to move to Tier 1 in the next day or two.
To move from Tier 2 to Tier 1, a region must have a 7-day average test positivity rate below 8% for three days in a row, have at least 20% of its hospital beds and intensive care unit beds available for three consecutive days, and have no sustained increase in COVID hospitalizations for 7 of the past 10 days.
With Southern Illinois now in Tier 1, not only can restaurants and bars that serve food in Region 5 now resume indoor service, but other restrictions are being eased or lifted entirely.
Under Tier 1, the state raises the capacity limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings from 10 people to 25. Capacity limits are also lifted for sports, gyms, and fitness centers, though social distancing must still be observed and masks must be worn at all times in gyms and fitness centers.READ MORE: Illinois Surpasses 3 Million COVID-19 Vaccinations; More Than 1 Million Residents Fully Vaccinated
While indoor service is allowed at bars and restaurants, they must close at 11 p.m. each day, and may not reopen until 6 a.m. Tables also must be spaced 6 feet apart, and there’s a limit of four people per table. Bars must serve food in order to offer indoor service.
“I am excited to see southern Illinois move into Tier 1 mitigations and I encourage them to continue to practice personal protective actions so they can get back to Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois Plan,” Illinois Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “This should serve as motivation for other regions. However, I do want to caution that moving back through tiers does not mean abandoning your mask or attending large events and gatherings. We must continue to watch our distance and wear our masks and get vaccinated when it we become eligible.”
The rest of Illinois remains in Tier 3 mitigations, though Pritzker said Friday most regions are on track to move to Tier 2 in the coming days if their virus trends hold.
In order to have Tier 3 mitigations rolled back to Tier 2, a given region must have a 7-day average test positivity rate of less than 12% for at least three days in a row, have more than 20% of its hospital beds and intensive care unit beds available for three consecutive days, and have declining numbers of COVID hospitalizations in 7 of the past 10 days.
Chicago and suburban Cook County meet all the requirements except for ICU bed capacity, as both regions still have less than 20% intensive care unit capacity, according to the most recent data from the Illinois Department of Public Health.MORE NEWS: 'I Feel Relieved': What People Are Saying And Doing After They Get Their COVID Vaccine
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