Pritzker issues most serious threat yet to bars, restaurants that defy orders

(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday even stricter rules for one region of the state and said state officials would be tracking down businesses throughout Illinois that don’t follow the added restrictions.

The governor is tightening restrictions in Region 1 in northwest Illinois where the COVID-19 positivity rate stood at 11.2 percent on Thursday. Region 1, which has been under Tier 1 restrictions since Oct. 3, is the first region in the state to be moved to Tier 2 restrictions amid the resurgence. Gatherings in Region 1 will now be limited to 10 people and no more than 6 people can sit at an outdoor table at one time. Region 5, in southern Illinois, went under additional restrictions on Thursday, shutting down indoor service at bars and restaurants.

“We’ve said all along that if things don’t start to turn around after two weeks in Tier 1, we can add more stringent measures to help usher in the progress we need to see to get things more open again,” Pritzker said. “That is now the case in Region 1, which has seen its positivity rise by nearly two points since October 14 alone. Region 1, bordering Wisconsin and Iowa, carries the additional responsibility of navigating a situation where the massive surge of cases in our neighboring states will continue to have a spillover effect.”

Region 1 includes Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson, Whiteside and Winnebago counties.

As new restrictions for Kane, DuPage, Will and Kankakee counties go into effect Friday, the governor was asked about a list of bar and restaurant owners who plan to defy the restrictions and continue to offer indoor service.

“I’m sure that the state police will go visit locations in Regions 7 and 8 and may use information like that to go to exactly those locations to see whether they are in fact scofflaws,” Pritzker said.

The Illinois Restaurant Association has asked the governor to reconsider the restrictions.

“The Illinois Restaurant Association cannot support the COVID-19 mitigation plan presented by Governor Pritzker’s office that ceases dine-in operations at restaurants across the state of Illinois,” Illinois Restaurant Association President and CEO Sam Toia said in a statement. “Moving backward in this manner spells complete devastation for the restaurant industry. The extreme measures outlined by the Governor’s team will result in the permanent closure of countless restaurants statewide, eliminating thousands of jobs and desolating communities inhabited by millions of residents.”

Pritzker has repeatedly said bars and restaurants are among the most common identifiable locations where the virus is spread. When asked about a possible communication breakdown with local officials who have raised questions about the spread of the virus in bars and restaurants, Pritzker hit back.

“The communication breakdown is with the people that are spreading these lies,” he said. ” … People don’t seem to understand this and they want to take one minor bit of data and try to blow it out like its proof of bars and restaurants are not spreading locations.”

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