Changes at the Individual Level
Most of the changes in guidance pertain to the individual level. Following CDC guidelines, many restrictions have been lifted for vaccinated individuals. Vaccinated individuals can be unmasked in personal gatherings, indoor and outdoor, and do not need to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Unvaccinated individuals are still required to adhere to public masking and social distancing for the safety of themselves and those they may have contact with. Elderly individuals that are unvaccinated are especially vulnerable to poor outcomes, and the plan requests that this group social distances at home.
Notably, the Bridge Tier still requires masking, vaccinated or unvaccinated, in the following places: (1) planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation and in transportation hubs such as airports and train and bus stations; (2) in congregate facilities such as correctional facilities and homeless shelters; and (3) in healthcare settings. These places are the most vulnerable for transmission, thus requiring masking for all. Along with that, individuals in school and daycare settings are asked to follow the guidance of the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
Changes for Businesses, Non-Profits, Etc.
Business guidance largely remains unchanged, but the “Bridge” Tier guidance does provide some important clarification on how to to implement safety precautions while continuing to open up. First, most business types, including retail and recreation spaces, should only be operating at 60% capacity. This will encourage continued social distancing practices while also letting these businesses maintain in-person business. All business types are required to provide face coverings and the ability to social distance for unvaccinated employees. Businesses should also allow distanced work or “telework” whenever possible.
All businesses are allowed to implement more restrictive measures than the current guidance, if they so choose. For an example, the CDC says unvaccinated people are allowed to go unmasked indoors, but a business is allowed to be more restrictive and say all individuals must be masked while in their store/restaurant/etc. The “Bridge” Tier also clarifies a few exceptions: exceptions due to religious belief encourages religious institutions to adhere to guidance as long as it does not infringe on the “free exercise of religion”, and emergency workers (think First Responders and their respective institutions) are also exempt but encouraged to adhere to guidance.
The “Bridge” stage is a step closer towards living in the “new normal” for Illinois. It is the bridge between continuing safe practices while expanding safe behaviors for those less at risk, i.e. vaccinated Illinoisans. Following this new guidance is what will help keep Illinois on track towards safe reopenings, and hopefully a return to all the activities we love to do during the summer months.