CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois continues to see improvements in key COVID-19 metrics, including the fewest daily coronavirus hospitalizations reported so far, as the state prepares to fully reopen on Friday.

As planned, Gov. JB Pritzker’s office announced, effective Friday, the state will lift all capacity limits on businesses, large-scale events, conventions, amusement parks, and all other venues. The state will continue to follow mask guidelines from the CDC, meaning fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in most situations, while people who haven’t been fully vaccinated should continue to wear face coverings in public.

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“A strong economy requires that people not only feel safe, but truly be safe, as they go about their lives as workers, neighbors, consumers, and friends – and thanks to the lifesaving power of vaccinations, that day is finally here for Illinois,” Gov. JB Pritzker said in a statement. “I invite all Illinoisans to feel the hope and joy of this moment while also recognizing that this pandemic is still very present for the world at large – not to mention those here at home who have not been or cannot be vaccinated. As we take this next step forward, let’s do so with a renewed commitment to empathy, to community, and to making each day together count. You did it, Illinois.”

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 366 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, as well as 18 more deaths. Illinois is averaging 413 new cases per day over the past week, down 61% from two weeks ago. It’s also the lowest 7-day case average since late March 2020.

Since the start of the pandemic, Illinois has reported a total of 1,386,628 cases, including 23,014 deaths.

The statewide average 7-day case positivity rate stands at 1.0% for the second day in a row, the lowest infection rate ever reported by IDPH.

As of Wednesday night, a total of 764 coronavirus patients were hospitalized in Illinois, the fewest reported in a single day since the state began tracking COVID hospitalizations in April 2020. Illinois is averaging 816 virus hospitalizations per day over the past week, down 42% from two weeks ago, and the smallest daily hospitalization average of the pandemic.

Meantime, while daily vaccinations have been trending upward for the past six days, they still lag far behind the peak from nearly two months ago. The 62,268 doses administered statewide on Wednesday is the most in one day since May 26. Illinois is averaging 49,572 doses per day over the past week, up 33% from one week ago, but still down 62% from the peak on April 12.

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A total of 5,678,116 people in Illinois have been fully vaccinated as of Wednesday night, accounting for 44.57% of the population.

Although the beginning of Phase 5 of the state’s reopening plan on Friday means no more capacity limits on businesses, some COVID-19 restrictions will remain in place.

While people who have been fully vaccinated no longer need to wear a mask in most circumstances, face coverings will still be required when people are riding public transportation or in congregate settings like schools, hospitals, daycare centers, and correctional facilities.

However, the governor will lift the outdoor mask requirement for all Illinois schools, in line with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While all businesses can fully reopen without state restrictions, they can still require customers to wear masks and observe social distancing.

In addition, public health officials are still urging people who haven’t been fully vaccinated to wear masks in crowded settings indoors and outdoors.

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“It is a very exciting time as we reach the point where businesses can operate without capacity limits and we are seeing the return of large events we’ve enjoyed in the past,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “However, it is important to remember that we are still in a world pandemic and not everyone has the protection of one of the safest and most effective vaccines ever. Currently, there is not a vaccine authorized for children younger than 12 years and some adults have chosen not to be vaccinated. For these reasons, it is important for unvaccinated people to continue to wear masks while in public and to socially distance. The virus can continue to spread among unvaccinated individuals, which could lead to additional mutations and new, more virulent variants.”

CBS 2 Chicago Staff