Shots up, virus cases down: Illinois easing rules Friday

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois will hit a milestone Friday when the state lifts all capacity limits on bars, restaurants, businesses and other venues, nearly 15 months after the first stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic.

"As we take this next step forward, let’s do so with a renewed commitment to empathy, to community, and to making each day together count," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said. "You did it, Illinois.”

More than 68% of Illinois residents who are 18 or older have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 51% of adults are fully vaccinated, the state health department said, citing federal data.

The health department said 209 people with COVID-19 were in intensive care units statewide Thursday and 103 were on ventilators — “some of the lowest counts we’ve seen since the pandemic began.”

There have been at least 23,014 deaths in Illinois from COVID-19.

Businesses still can have their own rules for capacity, masks and social distancing. Masks are still required on public transportation and in airports, schools and hospitals.

“We’ll try to pack the house as much as we can,” Cindy Perreault, manager of Here’s Cheers in Niles, told the Chicago Tribune. “It’s been really hard to run a business when the bar is three-quarters empty.”