Gov. JB Pritzker Suspends Indoor Dining In Chicago As COVID-19 Surges, But Mayor Lori Lightfoot Questions Decision

‘New Wave’ Of COVID-19 Cases In Illinois: Gov. JB Pritzker
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker wears a face mask made of a fabric with baseballs printed on it during his daily press briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic held in his office at the Illinois State Capitol, Thursday, May 21, 2020, in Springfield, Ill. Justin L. Fowler / The State Journal-Register via AP, Pool
‘New Wave’ Of COVID-19 Cases In Illinois: Gov. JB Pritzker
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker wears a face mask made of a fabric with baseballs printed on it during his daily press briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic held in his office at the Illinois State Capitol, Thursday, May 21, 2020, in Springfield, Ill. Justin L. Fowler / The State Journal-Register via AP, Pool

Gov. JB Pritzker Suspends Indoor Dining In Chicago As COVID-19 Surges, But Mayor Lori Lightfoot Questions Decision

Gov. JB Pritzker is ordering bars and restaurants in Chicago to halt indoor service and to limit gatherings in the city at 25 people starting Friday as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, a decision that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot questioned late Tuesday.

Pritzker said Tuesday that Chicago has averaged more than twice as many COVID-related hospital admissions per day as compared to a month ago, and that the city’s positivity rate has almost doubled since the start of October.

According to the latest data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, Chicago has seen eight straight days of increasing cases and seven days of increasing hospitalizations due to COVID-19. Both of those are factors the Pritzker administration uses in determining when to order mitigations to stem the spread.

“We can’t ignore what is happening around us – because without action, this could look worse than anything we saw in the spring. So please, no matter where you live, what your politics are, where you work or who you love: Illinois: mask up! And we’ll get through this together,” Pritzker said.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot had already suspended indoor drinking at bars that don’t serve food and required nonessential businesses to close starting at 10 p.m. Lightfoot didn’t have any public events or take questions Tuesday after the announcement was made.

But Tuesday evening, Lightfoot told PBS Newshour that while she was “very concerned” about the surge in cases, she was also very concerned about Pritzker’s upcoming restrictions.

“We’re very concerned about them…If the governor’s order goes into effect, it’s really effectively shutting down a significant portion of our economy, at a time when those same businesses are really hanging on by a thread,” Lightfoot told PBS. “It’s not looking good. And if we can’t convince him that some other metrics should apply, then this shutdown, unfortunately, is going to take effect Friday by state order.”

Lightfoot said there was no question cases have gone up, but said that hospitalizations are not “at a breaking point” as they had been in the spring, and suggested the city needed to be “surgical” at implementing restrictions. She said that the increase Chicago is seeing is coming from home infections, in non-public social settings.

“I’m not sure we’re reaching the right people with the restrictions that are being imposed by the state, and that’s my concern,” Lightfoot said.

Pritzker had already ordered the same restrictions on suburban Cook County, DuPage, Kane, Will and Kankakee Counties. They also apply to the Metro East region outside of St. Louis, Mo.

Lake and McHenry Counties as well as the region that includes Springfield are also perilously close to meeting the same criteria, seeing nine straight days of positive cases, according to the state’s public health department. Earlier Tuesday, the news that the governor was planning to enact tougher restrictions on Chicago came just as Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s commissioner for public health, was giving an update on the response to the pandemic.

When asked about restrictions, Arwady said she would support whatever decision the governor makes. She also urged residents to support restaurants, which have been pummeled by the economic fallout from the pandemic.

Lightfoot’s evening comments appeared to echo criticism that House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, had made earlier in the day Tuesday regarding Pritzker’s decision to shut down indoor dining in the suburbs.

“I think it’s just unfortunate that we continue to find a scapegoat in our restaurants,” Durkin said at an unrelated remote news conference. “I go to restaurants. I get my temperature taken. There is social distancing. I wear a mask. They’re doing everything they can to be able to provide their value to the community.”

Hours before Lightfoot made her comments, the usually even-keeled Pritzker expressed a very rare flash of anger in response to a reporter’s question Tuesday afternoon about the impact closures have had on the restaurant and bar business, saying he and other public officials were trying to find solutions.

“We’re all trying very hard to get this right, all across the country, every state is fighting this right now,” Pritzker said. “Can you not see that? That COVID is rising everywhere. Let’s not try to find the ‘loopholes’ here and there, but instead find ways that we can promote safety and health.”

Pritzker ordered that service outdoors has to end by 11 p.m. He also noted that the limits on events to 25 people --- or 25% of capacity — do not apply to schools or polling places, as Tuesday’s election day looms.

The state announced another 4,000 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours and reported another 46 deaths attributed to the virus.

Hunter Clauss contributed to this report.

Tony Arnold covers state politics for WBEZ. Mariah Woelfel is a general assignment reporter at WBEZ. Follow them @tonyjarnold @mariahwoelfel.