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The Majority Of Businesses In Illinois Can Reopen Friday

St. Louis-area businesses remain closed as the coronavirus pandemic drags on. Weeks of reduced income, or none at all, has stretched small businesses thin.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio
Nearly all businesses in Illinois can reopen on May 29 after most have been closed since Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued his stay-at-home order.

Nearly all businesses in Illinois will be able to reopen in some capacity on Friday as the whole state moves into its next phase of reopening following Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order in March.

For businesses in the Metro East, the wait is over, after feeling pressure to reopen when their counterparts in Missouri could weeks before them.

The state issued guidelines and requirements for how businesses in the retail, manufacturing, fitness, office, restaurant and personal care sectors will be able to safely reopen.

The guidelines vary for each industry, but at a minimum, the state encourages employers to let employees continue working from home. For workers that do return to their jobs, the state encourages social distancing of six feet, masks for employees when they’re near one another and health monitoring.

“It’s important that we remain careful about continuing to wear face coverings, washing hands, maintain six feet of distance and other mitigations,” Pritzker said Thursday at his daily press conference. 

In the new guidelines from the state, some restaurants and bars will be able to start serving customers in-person again, as long as they’re seated outdoors and far enough away from other patrons. Food establishments without outdoor seating will have to stick to delivery and takeout until phase four of Pritzker’s plan.

Barbershops, salons and retail shops can only operate at 50% capacity and with workers wearing masks. The state guidelines encourage customers to wear them, too.

Not every business in the state will be able to reopen on Friday. That includes theaters and fitness centers.

Once Illinois enters phase three of its reopening plan, the statistics the state tracks for reopening will reset, Pritzker said. He added the state will need to wait a full four weeks to tell if it’s safe to relax more restrictions.

“Even 14 days isn’t enough,” he said. “We see that in other states it sometimes takes three weeks, even more before you really start to see the effects of an opening up.”

Pritzker said he is open to altering some of the rules, like outside dining, as he and other state officials get new information about the coronavirus from experts. Restrictions may come back if there are spikes in infections, he warned. 

“If we have a spike and we need to quell that spike, we might potentially have to move back in the phases,” Pritzker said.

State health officials will use the same metrics to decide if portions of the state can move to phase four of reopening as they did for phase three. For the Metro East, that means the southern portion of the state will need no increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations for 28 days, capacity at local hospitals for a surge in cases and a testing positivity rate below 20%. 

The earliest any portion of Illinois can move into the next phase of reopening is June 26. 

Eric Schmid covers the Metro East for St. Louis Public Radio as part of the journalism grant program Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. Follow Eric on Twitter: @EricDSchmid

Send questions and comments about this article to: feedback@stlpublicradio.org

Eric Schmid covers business and economic development for St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.