By PETER HANCOCK
Capitol News Illinois
Illinois lawmakers will return to the Statehouse next week for their first in-person sessions since Jan. 4.
House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, said Thursday that the recent decline in COVID-19 cases makes returning to the Capitol possible.
“Our goal is to be productive while also keeping everyone safe, so masking and social distancing policies will still be in place,” Welch said in a news release. “I want to encourage everyone to get their vaccine and booster, and take advantage of the SHIELD testing opportunity on the Capitol complex.”
A spokesman for Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, confirmed that the Senate will meet in-person next week as well.
Cases began surging in December with the spread of the omicron variant, reaching a one-day high of 44,089 cases on Jan. 6. But there has been a steady decline in new cases in the past two weeks, falling to fewer than 10,000 new cases on Jan. 25.
Hospitalizations and intensive care unit utilization have also been declining. On Monday, Jan. 24, there were just 377 new hospital admissions for COVID-19, the lowest daily total in a month.
Lawmakers are scheduled to meet Tuesday through Thursday next week, Feb. 1-3.
At a separate event in Chicago on Thursday, Gov. JB Pritzker said he plans to deliver his annual budget and State of the State address in person on Wednesday, Feb. 2.
“And I’m excited about that,” Pritzker told reporters at a news conference. “And I don’t want to give any previews. You’ll certainly hear about it in the 24 hours or so before the speech and then, of course, a few surprises in the speech. But we want to make sure and keep that for next week.”
Pritzker will deliver the speech from the House chamber. For safety reasons, Welch’s office said capacity limits will be in place and the gallery above the House floor will remain closed to the public.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.