Pritzker Says He ‘Will Not Hesitate' to Close Bars, Indoor Dining Again If Coronavirus Metrics Keep Climbing

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Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Tuesday that he "will not hesitate" to bring back regulations previously put in place to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus across the state, including closing bars and indoor dining at restaurants, should health officials find it necessary.

Pritzker was asked at a news conference about whether he's considering shutting down indoor service at restaurants and bars again as coronavirus cases continue to rise - and at what point those restrictions would be reinstated.

"We're watching these numbers very, very closely. I don't wake up on any day and not look at those numbers first thing," Pritzker said. "We've been very measured about how we've reopened our state, and there are many people that complain that where we are now isn't open enough. And so I would just say that I will not hesitate to reimpose some mitigations if we see our numbers moving upward."

Indoor service at bars and restaurants was shut down in mid-March, and remained closed through late June, when the state entered phase four of its reopening plan.

"My concern, again, is all about the health and safety of the people of the state of Illinois," Pritzker added.

But when pressed on what the metrics - number of cases, positivity rate in testing or any other indicator - would be for him to reimpose those restrictions, Pritzker demurred.

"I listen to our Department of Public Health director as well as to the many epidemiologists who are advising us and watching very closely the states in the South and the West that are struggling right now and wondering, 'Where could we or should we dial, you know, turn the dimmer switches, they say, on some of these items?'" he said.

"And the answer is that if we see a sustained upward movement of numbers, and that's something that that is an alert for all of us in the governor's office and in our administration to begin to look at the mitigations that we can put in place," Pritzker continued.

"All of the things that have been part of our 'Restore Illinois' plan that have reopened in phases are things that we look at, to answer the question, 'If we needed to reimpose mitigations, which of these would be most effective?'" he explained, noting that early in the pandemic, the increased risk of transmission at indoor bars was not widely known.

"We had an idea, we imposed restrictions but we didn't have really enough data along the way. The data is now in. And so that's one of the things we look at," Pritzker said.

He added that officials also monitor the number of hospitalizations and the capacity of the state's healthcare system when considering restrictions - and that any efforts taken or restrictions imposed in the earlier stages of the pandemic remain on the table.

"All of those possibilities exist from everything that we did in phase two, phase three, and are things that we would consider doing here in phase four, to move backward if we needed to," Pritzker said.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot made similar comments Monday when asked about indoor dining and bars in the city, which is operating under its own reopening framework concurrently with the state.

"I'm not going to take anything off the table," Lightfoot said.

"I don't think we're at that point just yet," she continued. "But I am deeply concerned because we're starting to see this uptick. We're starting to see an uptick in the number of daily cases, deaths are going down, which is great. Most of our hospital indicators are good, but the case rate, the daily accumulation of cases is something I'm definitely concerned about. And we're not going to hesitate to take the steps that are necessary if we continue to see a rise in that number."

Illinois reported 883 new coronavirus cases and six additional deaths on Monday, bringing the statewide totals to 154,799 confirmed cases and 7,193 deaths since the pandemic began.

While the state’s overall positivity rate since the start of the pandemic has continued to fall, the 7-day positivity rate has steadily risen in recent days, now sitting at just over 3%. Illinois reported more than 1,000 cases of coronavirus each of the three days before Sunday, marking the first time the state has had three straight days of eclipsing that plateau since late May.

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