CHICAGO — Governor JB Pritzker released guidelines for K-12 schools, community colleges, and higher education institutions to resume in-person instruction for next fall on Tuesday.
“Classroom learning provides necessary opportunities for our students to learn, socialize, and grow. The benefits of in-person instruction can’t be overstated,” Pritzker said in a statement.
Schools in Illinois can return to in-person learning this fall under specific guidelines, Pritzker said. This includes masks worn by students and staff, social distancing, limiting indoor gatherings to 50 people, increased sanitizing of schools and screening students for COVID-19 symptoms.
All schools will be allowed to reopen, including P-12 schools and higher education, all public school districts, non-public schools, colleges and universities, although districts can develop their own individual plans.
The state will distribute 2.5 million cloth face masks for students and staff, Pritzker said, and public schools in Illinois will use more than $500 million from the federal government to shore up their readiness during the pandemic. Another $54 million from the federal grant will go toward additional online learning resources.
For colleges and other higher education institutions, dormitories, cafeterias, libraries, bookstores, and other amenities are expected to reopen, with new restrictions put in place to follow social distancing guidelines. At Illinois community colleges, face coverings will be required for students, faculty and staff.
Within its guidelines the state advises schools to place a high priority on students with additional needs that make in-person instruction more necessary, and on students under the age of 13 in order to lessen the childcare burden on families.
As part of their plans, the state says schools may develop “blended” schedules to keep groups smaller, which combines e-learning and in-person instruction. They could also extend their school year into the summer to accommodate additional days.
These graphics show some ways in which the state says districts can incorporate social distancing into their scheduling:
Illinois moves on to Phase 4 Friday
All of Illinois is set to move on to “Phase 4” of reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic this Friday, although some restrictions in Chicago remain stricter than those outlined in the state’s “Restore Illinois” plan.
Places of worship, bars and restaurants, zoos, movie theaters, gyms and performance venues can open their doors to allow people inside once again, under certain restrictions.
In Chicago, restrictions include capacity limits of 25 percent or up to 50 people in one space, limits on groups outdoors of 100 people, as well as requirements that staff and customers wear face coverings.
According to Pritzker, Illinois will bring back about 7 percent of the state’s workforce as it moves on to Phase 4, accounting for about $30 billion in annual GDP.
Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said testing capacity continues to expand. To date, there have been nearly 1.4 million COVID-19 tests performed, and the positivity rate from June 16-22 remains at a low of 2 percent.
Chicago launched a pilot program of mobile COVID-19 testing sites Tuesday, as the city works to bring more tests to residents at highest risk of infection. Testing at community-based sites run by the City of Chicago and State of Illinois offer COVID-19 tests free to all.
IDPH reported 601 new cases of COVID-19 and 38 coronavirus-related deaths were confirmed over the past 24 hours Tuesday. Of confirmed cases, 94 percent are believed to have recovered. As of Monday, 1,648 people are hospitalized with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 424 in intensive care and 236 on ventilators.
COVID-19 in the U.S.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday he is cautiously optimistic there will be a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year or early 2021, but warned the next few weeks will be critical to tamping down coronavirus hot spots.
Fauci has recently warned that the U.S. is still in the first wave of the pandemic and has continued to urge the American public to practice social distancing
An extra $600 a week in federally provided benefits to the unemployed is set to expire on July 31. The money was included as part of the government relief package passed earlier this year.
Congress remains divided largely along partisan lines over whether another round of similar relief is necessary.