Illinois Takes Steps To Reopen With ‘Restore Illinois’

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While Illinois’ “Stay-at-Home” Order remains in effect through May 29, Governor Pritzer has issued “Restore Illinois,” a public health plan addressing the gradual reopening of the state in five phases. The state will move through the various phases based on certain health metrics (such as the rate of positive COVID-19 tests and measures of maintaining regional hospital surge capacity) with each phase permitting distinct business, education and recreation activities.

The plan is based on regional health care availability and recognizes the distinct impact COVID-19 has on four separate regions of the state (Northeast Illinois, North-Central Illinois, Central Illinois, and Southern Illinois), allowing each region to move through the phases at different paces. Earlier this week, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) issued a Regional Scorecard tracking each region’s performance for purposes of assessing its ability to move forward to the next phase of the plan.

All four regions have already progressed to Phase 2, or the “Flattening” phase, which limits gatherings to 10 or fewer people and provides for the following business restrictions:

  • Allows only “Essential” manufacturing businesses to open.
  • Employees of “Nonessential Businesses” are required to work from home except for performing certain “Minimum Basic Operations.”
  • Bars and restaurants can be open for delivery, pickup and drive-thru only.
  • Essential retail stores can open with restrictions; nonessential retail stores can open for delivery and curbside pickup only.
  • Personal care services and health clubs must remain closed.
  • Illinoisians are directed to wear face coverings when outside the home and can begin participating in additional outdoor activities such as golf, boating and fishing while practicing social distancing.

Once a region meets the requisite criteria, but no earlier than May 28, it can move forward to Phase 3, or the “Recovery” phase. Phase 3 continues to limit gatherings to 10 or fewer people and loosens restrictions related to businesses, with the following conditions:

  • “Nonessential” manufacturing that can safely operate with social distancing can reopen, and must follow IDPH-approved safety guidance.
  • Employees of “Nonessential” businesses are allowed to return to work in keeping with IDPH-approved safety guidance, depending upon risk level. Employers are to encourage telework and are encouraged to provide accommodations for COVID-19 vulnerable employees.
  • Bars and restaurants continue to be open for delivery, pickup and drive-thru only.
  • Retail can open with capacity limits, following IDPH-approved safety guidance, including the use of face coverings.
  • Barbershops and salons may open, following IDPH-approved safety guidance. Health and fitness clubs can provide outdoor classes and one-on-one personal training while following IDPH-approved safety guidance.

Phase 4, or the “Revitalization” phase, allows for gatherings of 50 or fewer people, and further loosens business restrictions with the following conditions:

  • All manufacturing businesses will be allowed to open and must follow IDPH-approved safety guidance.
  • All employees can return to work, and must follow IDPH-approved safety guidance. Employers are encouraged to provide accommodations for COVID-19-vulnerable employees.
  • Bars and restaurants can open with capacity limits and in accordance with IDPH-approved safety guidance.
  • All barbershops, salons, spas and health and fitness clubs can open with capacity limits and must follow IDPH-approved safety guidance.
  • Cinemas and theaters can open with capacity limits and in keeping with IDPH-approved safety guidance.
  • Retail can open with capacity limits and must comply with IDPH-approved safety guidance.

Phase 5, or “Illinois Restored,” which will not occur until a vaccine or highly effective treatment is widely available or no new cases are detected over a sustained period, provides for the economy to fully reopen with safety precautions continuing. Conventions, festivals and large events are permitted, and all businesses, schools and places of recreation can open, following new safety guidance and procedures.

While the Restore Illinois plan does not specifically identify the IDPH-approved safety guidance to which it refers, the Governor’s April 30, 2020 Executive Order provides certain safety requirements for businesses to follow when bringing workers back to the workplace.

To start, all businesses are required to evaluate which employees can work from home, and are encouraged to facilitate remote work from home when possible. All businesses that have employees reporting to a physical work site must post guidance from the IDPH and Office of the Illinois Attorney General regarding workplace safety during the COVID-19 emergency.

The order also contains the following industry-specific guidance:

  • Retail stores designated as “Essential Businesses and Operations” shall to the greatest extent possible:
    • Provide face coverings to all employees who are not able to maintain a minimum six-foot social distance at all times;
    • Cap occupancy at 50% of store capacity, or, alternatively, at the occupancy limits based on store square footage set by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity:
    • Set up store aisles to be one-way where practicable to maximize spacing between customers and identify the one-way aisles with conspicuous signage and/or floor markings;
    • Communicate with customers through in-store signage, and public service announcements and advertisements, about the social distancing requirements set forth in this Order (Social Distancing Requirements); and
    • Discontinue use of reusable bags.
  • Non-essential stores operating for the limited purpose of fulfilling telephone and online orders through pickup and delivery must follow Social Distancing Requirements and require employees to wear face coverings if they come within six (6) feet of another employee or customers.
  • Manufacturers that continue to operate under the order must follow Social Distancing Requirements and take appropriate precautions, which may include:
    • Providing face coverings to all employees who are not able to maintain a minimum six-foot social distance at all times;
    • Staggering shifts;
    • Reducing line speeds;
    • Operating only essential lines, while shutting down non-essential lines;
    • Ensuring that all spaces where employees can gather, including locker rooms and lunchrooms, allow for social distancing; and
    • Downsizing operations to the extent necessary to allow for social distancing and to provide a safe workplace in response to the COVID-19 emergency.

According to the Order, “Social Distancing Requirements” include staying six feet away from other individuals, washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as frequently as possible or using hand sanitizer, covering coughs or sneezes (into the sleeve or elbow, not hands), regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces and not shaking hands. It also requires businesses to take proactive measures, including where possible:

  • Designating with signage, tape or by other means, six-foot spacing for employees and customers standing in line, to maintain appropriate distance;
  • Having hand sanitizer and sanitizing products readily available for employees and customers;
  • Implementing separate operating hours for elderly and vulnerable customers;
  • Posting online whether a facility is open and how best to reach the facility and continue services by phone or remotely; and
  • Providing employees with appropriate face coverings and requiring that employees wear face coverings where maintaining a six-foot social distance is not possible at all times. When the work circumstances require, providing employees with other PPE in addition to face coverings.

Additional guidance for businesses as well as workplace health and safety guidance can be found on the IDPH website.

Additional Information

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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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