Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced he will shut down indoor service at bars and restaurants in DuPage, Kane, Will and Kankakee Counties beginning Friday to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The decision comes as each region has seen a steady increase of COVID-19 cases.
DuPage and Kane Counties have seen 10 straight days of positive increases, with a 9% positivity rate of those tested for the virus as of Oct. 17. Will and Kankakee have seen nine straight days of increasing positive cases, reporting an 8.6% positivity rate on Oct. 17.
In addition, gatherings in the four counties will be limited to no more than 25 people.
“This isn’t about punishing anybody,” Pritzker said at a news conference Tuesday. “We didn’t pick it just because it sounds good or because we want to do it. It’s because all the studies have been done about bars and restaurants show that these are significant spreading locations.”
The number of cases statewide dramatically increased over the last two weeks. On Tuesday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 3,714 new COVID-19 cases and 41 related deaths. While many more tests are now being conducted than earlier in the pandemic, the rate of positive cases has also been climbing — surpassing 6% the last two days.
Pritzker attributed the state’s rising COVID caseload to unchecked spread of the virus in states surrounding Illinois.
“The massive surge of cases in our neighboring states will continue to have a spillover effect,” the governor said. “There is no easy fix for the effects of this virus on our economy and on our public health, but we can and we will manage through this.
“We’re Midwestern tough here in Illinois. We know how to deal with a crisis, and we know how to take care of each other,” Pritzker continued. “If you’re getting tired and letting your guard down, now is the time to pick it back up. Mask up, wash your hands, keep your distance. We have to manage through this until effective treatments and vaccines are fully tested and ready for distribution.”
Sam Toia, President and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said the rollback of in-person dining could devastate the restaurant business, saying many will have to close permanently. He called again, as he has in the past, for federal relief.
“Moving backwards in phasing without any financial support will mean devastation for restaurants in Illinois — causing many to shutter for good,” Toia said in a statement. “If our restaurants have any hope of making it through the winter, especially given potential rollbacks, they need government support, now.”
Toia has been pushing for Congress to act on the so-called Restaurants Act, which he said seeks $120 billion relief. On Tuesday, he said Congress should at least in the short-term push forward more PPP funding and tax credits.
Under Illinois COVID-19 mitigation guidelines, the newly placed restrictions in DuPage, Kane, Will and Kankakee counties will be lifted if seven-day rolling positivity averages are 6.5% or lower for three straight days.
In August, the state shut down indoor dining and drinking in Will and Kankakee Counties after that region saw a spike in cases. Those restrictions were lifted less than a month later as the cases subsided.
The number of cases have also been steadily climbing in Chicago and Cook, Lake and McHenry Counties. On Monday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared that the city is experiencing a “second surge” of the virus, and cautioned that more restrictions on life and business could come soon if the outbreak doesn’t get under control.