JB Pritzker

‘Not About Punishing Anybody:' Officials Defend COVID-19 Restrictions in Suburban Counties

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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration is facing some criticism over its decision to re-impose coronavirus mitigation strategies on bars and restaurants in four healthcare regions, but the governor says that the decisions are meant to be temporary and are based on science and contact tracing.

The Pritzker administration has ordered a halt to indoor dining and bar service in healthcare regions in northwestern and southern Illinois, as well as four suburban counties, as a result of elevated positivity rates in those areas.

New restrictions will go into place Thursday in Region 5, and will go into effect Friday in Kane, DuPage, Will and Kankakee counties.

Those restrictions, which mainly target bars and restaurants, were chosen very carefully, Pritzker says, and are meant to put a stop to spiraling positivity rates and case numbers.

“It’s not about punishing anybody,” he said. “We didn’t pick it because it sounds good or because we want to do it. It’s because all studies done about bars and restaurants show they’re significant spreading locations, and we’re trying to stop that as best we can so that those places can reopen indoor service.”

According to Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, bars and restaurants are among the places where coronavirus has primarily spread in Illinois and the rest of the United States. Ezike also says that schools and workplaces are among the primary locations of virus spread, but says that bars and restaurants are the place where the most decisive and impactful action can be taken.

Interim Chief Medical Officer at Advocate Sherman Hospital Dr. Justin Macariola-Coad provides Illinois residents with recommendations to maintain healthy habits amid the coronavirus pandemic as winter months approach.

“The top three places that come up over and over again statewide are people’s workplaces, schools and restaurants and bars,” she said. “The one thing we can immediately act on is bars and restaurants.”

In addition to the halt in indoor dining and bar service, the new mandates will also force bars and restaurants to close at 11 p.m., with outdoor service only. Gatherings will be limited to 25 or fewer people in the affected counties, and party buses will be temporarily banned.

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