Illinois Continues Partial Reopening Plan, Issues Industry-Specific Guidance for Phase 3

Morgan Lewis

Morgan Lewis

Additional reopening steps come several weeks after Illinois released a five-phase, regional plan for reopening businesses following the statewide closure of all nonessential businesses due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency, a process known as Restore Illinois.

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed Executive Order 2020-38 on May 29, moving the entire state of Illinois to Phase 3 of its reopening plan. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced on May 28 that the city would delay moving to reopening Phase 3 until June 3, 2020.[1]

The state is continuing the reopening process with strict rules about how businesses may bring workers back to the workplace. On May 24, the state issued industry-specific requirements for expanded reopening under Phase 3.[2] This LawFlash discusses the state government’s rules for the ongoing reopening[3] process, including industry-specific guidance.


Regional Reopening

Restore Illinois established four health regions in the state:

  • Northeast Region: Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties
  • North-Central Region: Boone, Bureau, Carroll, Dekalb, Fulton, Henderson, Henry, Jo Daviess, Knox, LaSalle, Lee, Livingston, Marshal, McDonough, McLean, Mercer, Ogle, Peoria, Putnam, Rock Island, Stark, Stephenson, Tazewell, Warren, Whiteside, Winnebago, and Woodford counties
  • Central Region: Adams, Brown, Calhoun, Cass, Champaign, Christian, Clark, Clay, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, DeWitt, Douglas, Edgar, Effingham, Fayette, Ford, Greene, Handcock, Iroquois, Jasper, Jersey, Lawrence, Logan, Macon, Macoupin, Mason, Menard, Montgomery, Morgan, Moutrie, Piatt, Pike, Richland, Sangamon, Schuyler, Scott, Shelby, and Vermilion counties
  • Southern Region: Alexander, Bond, Clinton, Edwards, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Madison, Marion, Massac, Monroe, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Saline, St. Clair, Union, Wabash, Washington, Wayne, White, and Williamson counties

As of May 29, all four regions were eligible to move to Phase 3 of Restore Illinois based on their satisfying the following metrics related to COVID-19:

  • At or under a 20% positivity rate
  • Positivity rate increasing no more than 10 percentage points over a 14-day period
  • No overall increase in hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illness for 28 days
  • Available surge capacity of at least 14% of ICU beds, medical and surgical beds, and ventilators

Each region must continue to satisfy these metrics to move to Phase 4. Progress is monitored on a dashboard updated daily by the state.

Finally, it is important to note that regions may slow or roll back reopening measures if the metrics demonstrate an increased spread of COVID-19 as the reopening process continues.

Industry Reopening

As of May 29, most businesses became eligible to reopen subject to compliance with certain restrictions. The phased reopening gives businesses permission to reopen, but reopening is not mandatory. All businesses must comply with the requirements outlined in Governor Pritzker’s Executive Order 2020-38 and the industry-specific guidance described below.

During Phase 4 of Restore Illinois, the state anticipates reopening entertainment venues and permitting bars and restaurants to offer indoor dining. The state also anticipates reducing restrictions on manufacturing, personal care services and health clubs, and retail. We expect additional industry guidance for the fourth phase in the next few weeks.

Industry-Specific Protocols

On May 24, the State of Illinois published industry-specific detailed guidelines to assist businesses as they reopen during Phase 3 of Restore Illinois, along with a Phase 3 Business Toolkit containing checklists, posters, and signage.

While checklists and other resources available in the toolkit are helpful, the detailed industry guidelines set forth the binding minimum standards for each industry. These guidelines are designed to address the particular circumstances and operational needs of the following industries:

  • Day camps
  • Health and fitness centers
  • Manufacturing
  • Offices
  • Outdoor recreation
  • Personal care services
  • Retail
  • Restaurants and bars (outdoor dining and drinks)
  • Service counters
  • Youth sports

Although the requirements differ somewhat between industries, the following requirements apply generally across industries. The guidance is very specific, and businesses should review it in full, along with Executive Order 2020-38, and implement appropriate measures before reopening.

  • General Health
    • All employees who can work from home should continue to do so
    • Employees should wear face coverings over their nose and mouth when within six feet of others
    • All persons should remain six feet apart to the greatest extent possible
    • Provide an adequate supply of soap, disinfectant, hand sanitizer, and paper towels
  • Physical Workspace
    • Display signage with face-covering requirements, social distancing guidelines, cleaning protocols, and other guidelines at points of entry, queue points, etc.
    • Reconfigure workspaces and activities to allow for social distancing between employees/customers
  • HR and Travel Policies
    • Develop and conduct mandatory health and safety training for all employees returning to work
    • Continue to limit all nonessential business travel
  • Health Monitoring
    • Develop a daily health and wellness plan that includes temperature verification and symptom screening
    • Update policies and directives for employees who don’t feel well or begin to exhibit COVID-19 symptoms
    • Develop protocols for if an employee contracts COVID-19
  • Disinfecting/Cleaning Procedures
    • Establish plan for weekly cleaning and disinfecting of premises
    • Sanitize common areas and surfaces in high-traffic areas at least every two hours
    • Place sanitizing supplies, hand sanitizer, and/or handwashing stations in entrances, elevators, common areas, etc.
  • Staffing and Attendance
    • Develop plan for managing maximum occupancy and group size requirements
    • Limit occupancy of common areas/break rooms to allow for social distancing
    • Communicate to employees the importance of minimizing in-person meetings, reducing material sharing, etc.
  • External Interactions
    • Establish procedure for asking if external suppliers or visitors are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms
    • Log all external vendors, visitors, or suppliers who enter premises

Any business/organization permitted to open must prominently post guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and Office of the Illinois Attorney General regarding workplace safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Businesses looking to reopen or expand their workplaces anywhere in the State of Illinois must be aware of the state’s detailed guidelines and requirements. Businesses should be particularly mindful of guidance specific to their industry and ensure they have taken effective measures to make their workplaces are safe for employees and guests alike.

Common steps Illinois employers should implement prior to fully reopening include establishing a broad social distancing plan, creating a workplace safety plan, developing communications to employees about these plans, implementing COVID-19 symptom screening, training screeners and managers on responsible and consistent implementation of these plans, updating cleaning protocols, taking steps to reduce the number of people in the workplace, and developing protocols for when an employee is infected, including a contact tracing protocol.



[1] Other cities or counties within the state of Illinois may decide to delay moving to Phase 3 or impose stricter metrics. Businesses should remain abreast of developments.

[2] The City of Chicago released its own industry guidelines on May 26. To the extent obligations for businesses conflict, Chicago businesses should follow the more stringent requirements.

[3] This LawFlash uses the generic term “reopening” to mean both reopening of closed workplaces and the expansion/worker return for workplaces that have continued to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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