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Daily Journal
     June 15, 2021      #91-166 KDJ

Reopening is finally here 

By Ron Jackson

We made it. It has been a long 16 months of hope and changes. The state of Illinois has finally reached Phase 5 of its Restore Illinois pandemic response plan. With declining numbers of reported new positive cases of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths and with over 50 percent of residents age 12 and older vaccinated, the governor’s date of reopening the state has finally arrived. Limited masks requirements and fully reopened economy here we come.

Gov JB Pritzker set June 11 to implement his latest pandemic guidelines for businesses and public venues. The state no longer requires face coverings or social distancing in venues where everyone has been vaccinated. Of course, there are exceptions. Businesses and municipalities may still continue to require face coverings and social distancing as they deem necessary. Some other exceptions to the state’s latest guidelines include public transportation, and “health care facilities and where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.” In other words, we are not free to roam around the state with reckless abandon under the assumption that the virus has been completely eradicated or because the state said so. We must still have regard for consequences.

Schools, day care facilities and educational institutions are still subject to the guidelines as issued by the Illinois Board of Education, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Illinois Department of Public Health. The governor’s Phase 5 declaration primarily means that businesses can return to operating at 100 percent capacity indoor and outdoor.

The state’s no face covering requirement is contingent upon the assumption that 100 percent of patrons have been vaccinated. With no means to determine exactly who has been vaccinated, the ultimate responsibility for compliance remains with the business. How a business is to make that determination has not been detailed. That is if it is even possible. Vaccination records are not fool-proof.

In the most general terms, the Phase 5 announcement merely means those earliest and hardest hit entities like bars, restaurants, entertainment venues and churches may proceed to pre-pandemic functioning but with caution still. Employees and patrons who choose to continue wearing face coverings should have that option without risk of shaming. Employees are no longer required by the state to have daily health screenings. The business does have the obligation to control the face covering police while on their property. Now that full capacity is permitted, businesses may be able to afford to return to their right to refuse service policies.

The optimum success of the state’s plan to restore business to usual relies upon personal responsibility which cannot be legislated, mandated, or even planned. It can only be hoped for. Some will embrace the no mask requirement. Others may be reluctant. All of us have to respect the choices of our fellow residents.

It would behoove all Illinois residents to exercise their best judgement and best behavior during this latest phase. The governor still has executive rule for at least two more weeks. He can at anytime snatch this little breath of liberty away from us.

Just a few of the reasons we could drop back to Phase 4 plan include: if COVID-related hospitalizations increase to more than 150 per day for a 10-day period; if COVID-related hospital stays top 750 for 10 days; if the state’s mortality rate exceeds 0.1 daily average; and the state’s ICU bed availability rate drops below 20 percent in a 10-day period.

One area conspicuously missing from the June 11reopening was employment. Why wasn’t Friday reopening day also reemployment or go-back-to-work day? If we can now shop, eat, drink, play without a mask, can’t we work without one?

Breathe well, everyone.

Ron Jackson can be contacted through the Daily Journal at editors@daily-journal.com

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