coronavirus illinois

Pritzker Defends Stance on New Indoor Dining Policy in Many Illinois Regions

"The reality is, that restaurant can be perfectly safe from 6 to 8 p.m. and become a super spreader event from 8 to 10."

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker defended his decision on Thursday to close indoor dining in many Illinois regions.

During his daily coronavirus briefing, Pritzker said there are dozens of studies and articles on outbreaks in bars and restaurants, saying the establishments are "spreading locations."

Officials said the major issue with bars and restaurants is the need to remove a mask in order to eat or drink, which could lead to a further spread of the coronavirus.

Dr. Emily Landon, infectious disease expert at University of Chicago Medicine, said "there's no way around" Pritzker's recent order to shut down indoor bar service and dining in most regions in Illinois.

"Over 100 (coronavirus) cases were linked to one bar in Michigan in a week. And over the summer in Minnesota, 29 bars and restaurants started clusters that spread throughout the community" Landon said. "Shutting down bars and restaurants and putting in mass mandates changed the trajectory of the pandemic in Arizona, Texas, Florida, San Diego, Washington, DC, Illinois, I could go on."

Landon said the spreading is not the fault of any particular restaurant, but rather that the spread is inevitable. She reminded that people with the coronavirus are contagious before experiencing symptoms.

"The reality is, that restaurant can be perfectly safe from 6 to 8 p.m. and become a super spreader event from 8 to 10," Landon said. "It all depends on whether or not someone with COVID walks in the door."

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.

In his briefing Thursday, Pritzker said his team has been providing data everyday he hosts a conference. He added that they are not able to be completely certain where an individual contracted the virus; but, through contact tracing, they saw bars and restaurants were a consistent previous location.

The increased restrictions imposed on several regions include the suspension of indoor dining and bar service and a limitation on gathering sizes, which the governor and public health officials have said aims to "cut down on some of the highest high-risk activities until we bring down the positivity rate in a region once again."

The lawmakers asked for data proving such restrictions are merited and questioned why casinos are allowed to operate at reduced capacity but restaurants cannot.

“Our local health departments were told by the administration early during this pandemic that mitigation efforts would be localized, based on the data and reflective of where outbreaks are happening,” Sen. Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods) said in a statement. “Instead, the state is using a cookie-cutter approach and not localizing their response as promised based on contact tracing data. Why are we penalizing restaurants when local monitoring says they are not the primary culprit to increased COVID rates?”

Similarly, Rep. Tom Weber in Lake Villa said the 64th District's data does not indicate bars and restaurants are a main source of spread.

“Before we tell our restaurant and bar owners that they are basically ‘not essential’, we need to have confidence in the metrics that are being used to single them out," Weber said in a statement. "If the governor wants our help in supporting the resurgence mitigations, he needs to provide the data we’ve been asking for.”

Already, several restaurants in multiple Chicago-area counties have vowed to defy the order and one restaurant in Geneva won a temporary court order that prevents state and local officials from enforcing the indoor dining ban.

“If we push people out of restaurants where there are regulations, people will gather privately where there is no regulation,” Rep. Dan Ugaste (R-Geneva) said in a statement. “People are going to gather. We should help them do that responsibly.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has also questioned the decision to shut down indoor dining.

“I'm not sure that we're reaching the right people with the restrictions that are going to be imposed by the state and that's my concern,” she said during a recent interview.

While Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike have presented research that shows bars and restaurants are one of the primary locations where coronavirus is spreading, Lightfoot warned that the greater challenge is posed by what individuals are doing in their own homes.

“The truth is that where we're seeing the greatest challenges is in people's homes, in social settings that are not public,” she said. “That's harder to regulate to be sure but that's at least in Chicago where we're seeing the challenges. Two-thirds of the people that are testing positive and are talking to our case investigators are telling us that they got it from somebody that they knew and that they got it in a home or other social setting that's not in public.”

Still, Pritzker's office said the state was not inclined to make exceptions to its guidelines.

"Unfortunately, the virus doesn’t make exceptions, and it would be ill-advised to make exceptions to the rules we put in place as the best mitigations to stop the spread," a spokeswoman for the governor said in a statement.

The full list of new restrictions include:


  • No indoor service 
  • All outside bar service closes at 11:00 p.m. 
  • All bar patrons should be seated at tables outside 
  • No ordering, seating, or congregating at bar (bar stools should be removed)  
  • Tables should be 6 feet apart  
  • No standing or congregating indoors or outdoors while waiting for a table or exiting 
  • No dancing or standing indoors 
  • Reservations required for each party 
  • No seating of multiple parties at one table 


  • No indoor dining or bar service 
  • All outdoor dining closes at 11:00 p.m. 
  • Outside dining tables should be 6 feet apart 
  • No standing or congregating indoors or outdoors while waiting for a table or exiting 
  • Reservations required for each party  
  • No seating of multiple parties at one table 

Meetings, Social Events, Gatherings 

  • Limit to lesser of 25 guests or 25 percent of overall room capacity 
  • No party buses 
  • Gaming and Casinos close at 11:00 p.m., are limited to 25 percent capacity, and follow mitigations for bars and restaurants, if applicable 

Region 9's average positivity rate stood at 8.4% Wednesday, state officials said, marking an increase from 4.8% in September and 3.1% in June. Pritzker's office said coronavirus-related hospital admissions have also increased in that timeframe - now three times as high as in September and five times as high as they were in June.

The state health department said it plans to track the positivity rate in Region 9 over the coming days "to determine if mitigations can be relaxed, if additional mitigations are required, or if current mitigations should remain in place."

The enhanced restrictions may be lifted if the region's positivity rate averages 6.5% or lower and if there is a decrease in hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illnesses over a three-day period, and if the average hospital and ICU bed availability is greater than 20% for seven days.

If the positivity rate continues to climb and hospital admissions increases for seven out of 10 days, more stringent mitigations can be applied, state officials said.

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