Downstate lawmaker questions public health officials as one in five Illinois counties on COVID-19 warning list

(The Center Square) – Nearly one in five Illinois counties are now in a warning level for COVID-19 per state public health officials, and they’re blaming the lack of face coverings and social distancing, weddings and parties, among other things.

A state representative is questioning the data.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reports 20 of Illinois’ 102 counties Friday have two or more COVID-19 risk indicators. Those counties are Bureau, Cass, Clay, Clinton, Franklin, Greene, Grundy, Hancock, Henderson, Jefferson, Logan, Madison, Monroe, Moultrie, Randolph, St. Clair, Union, White, Will and Williamson.

This report comes just days after Region 4, which includes several of the counties, were strapped with tighter restrictions that include limiting bar, restaurant and casino operating hours and capacity and not allowing dancing, dining in without a reservation, or even bar stools for people to congregate at a bar.

“Public health officials are observing people not social distancing or using face coverings,” the department said in a statement. “Additionally, there are reports of individuals who are ill attributing their symptoms to allergies or other illnesses, or not being forthcoming about their symptoms or close contacts.”

The indicators range from new cases per capita, number of deaths, weekly positivity rate, ICU bed availability, emergency department visits, hospital admissions, tests performed and clusters.

State Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville, represents parts of Clinton, Madison and St. Clair counties, all of which are included in the latest list. He said Illinois State Police are targeting gatherings in his district and even issued a citation against a wedding reception.

“We had the state police at a wedding trying to shut it down [last] Saturday night in my district,” Meier said. “They tried to shut it down. The person in charge of it would not stop the wedding reception.”

He said the reception organizers were told different occupancy regulations by law enforcement.

“She said, ‘just write me the ticket, I am not stopping this reception,’” Meier relayed. “So they were issued a citation, no cost, no fine on this one yet, but it’s bad that it’s come to this.”

ISP confirms they “responded on Saturday to a complaint by the Clinton County Public Health Department. There were no citations issued.”

The administrator of the Clinton County Health Department couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

“How are these places supposed to pay their bills, their monthly electric bills, all their taxes, if once again they’re being shut down by the state of Illinois,” Meier said.

More than 1.4 million Illinois workers have filed for unemployment benefits since March, when the first of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s emergency orders placing much of the state’s economy on shutdown were issued.

“We question the numbers,” he said. “We’d like to know how these numbers are calculated.”

The Pritzker administration also said outbreaks in these counties are associated with long-term care facilities and other congregate settings the state regulates. They also blame travel to neighboring states, bars and sports camps.

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