coronavirus illinois

‘People are Dying. Period:' Pritzker Defends Restrictions on Bars and Restaurants

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a stern reminder about the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic Friday after he was asked about Chicago Mayor Lightfoot's comments that bars and restaurants aren't the primary source of infection in the city.

The decision announced by Pritzker to shut down indoor dining in Chicago and regions throughout the state has been met with anger from business owners already suffering since the first round of restrictions in March. The decision was made, state officials said, as a result of rising positivity rates during the "second surge" of the pandemic.

Lightfoot, who voiced her disagreement with Pritzker's decision Wednesday, said restaurants "are the industry that's been the most impacted," and she's worried many may be unable to come back.

As Illinois saw nearly 7,000 new coronavirus cases Friday, a single-day high, and the highest number of tests since the start of the pandemic, Pritzker said he'll to everything in his power to keep the infection rate down.

"...Remind you that people are dying. Period," he said at Friday's daily news briefing. "We just had 6,900 people detected with coronavirus. That's more than we've ever seen in this state... We now have hospitalizations going up. They're almost double what they were a few weeks ago."

Pritzker said Thursday there are dozens of studies and articles on outbreaks in bars and restaurants, saying the establishments are "spreading locations."

Several restaurants and suburbs across Illinois are threatening to revolt against new coronavirus restrictions, claiming their businesses are safe and are being singled out. NBC 5’s Lexi Sutter reports

"I'm going to fight this virus," Pritzker said. "We have got to get these numbers down, and you know why, so we can reopen the bars and restaurants?"

But in the city of Chicago, Lightfoot said that gatherings in private social settings, such as homes, are the primary source of outbreaks, not bars and restaurants.

“If we saw restaurants and bars that they were the source of an outbreak - as we’ve done in every other setting — we would aggressively addressed those issues," the mayor said. "We have not seen that."

Lightfoot and restaurant owners aren't the only ones who've voiced frustrations.

Republican lawmakers in Lake and McHenry counties, where increased coronavirus restrictions are set to begin Saturday, said they want to see data proving restaurants are a main contributor in coronavirus spread in their region.

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