Republicans accuse Pritzker of playing politics in treating regions different; governor orders diners to wear masks more often

(The Center Square) – Republican senators in Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Region 7 said the governor made deals that weren’t based on science with leaders in another region of the state regarding business closures to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The governor said Tuesday that it was a “mistake” to implement less strict mitigations in Region 4.

The governor also said he would require customers going to restaurants that remain open to use a face mask when interacting with restaurant employees.

Standing with Democratic lawmakers in Will County, Pritzker announced mitigation measures for Will and Kankakee counties. He said the region has exceeded 8 percent positivity rate on COVID-19 tests for more than three days.

“All indoor bar service and indoor dining service will be closed [for Will and Kankakee counties],” Pritzker announced. “Outdoor bars and dining may stay open for table service if they follow the required mitigations.”

Area state Sens. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, and John Curran, R-Woodridge, released a statement just before the governor’s announcement. Rezin and Curran said the governor was not being fair because the mitigations were different than those implemented in the Metro East area, where restaurants could have limited dine-in service at restaurants.

“The governor has decided to place partisan politics above science,” the Republicans said. “As a result, Will and Kankakee Counties will be forced to ban indoor dining while the Metro-East (Region 4) will be given an extra week to improve their numbers. Why the double standard?

“Because Democrat elected officials from that region pressured the Governor to change this stance,” they said. “Backroom political deals should not be how public health decisions are made. The same rules should apply to all regions, and they should be based on science, not politics.”​

State Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, agreed.

“I always despise a double standard,” Batinick said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me to have a double standard. You either have rules, and you follow them or you don’t.”

Pritzker said Region 4 mitigations have not been working and will likely be closed next week. He said it was a mistake.

“Unintended,” he said. “It was a mistake in my view ultimately to make the adjustment that we made in Region 4.”

Pritzker said he was listening to public health officials in the area, which borders St. Louis.

Batinick said the governor should provide more data for his decisions.

Meanwhile, statewide, the governor also announced restaurant patrons must wear masks more often “when interacting with wait staff and other employees.”

“Customers must follow this rule when food and beverages are brought to the table, when orders are placed, and when picking up carryout orders,” the governor said.

Kankakee County Sheriff Mike Downey said his office will only enforce the law if there is a physical altercation.

“But, if somebody calls and says ‘so and so is not enforcing the mask issue,’ that’s going to be a Kankakee County Health Department issue,” Downey told WMAY radio.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said residents have to do better at wearing face coverings properly to slow the transmission of the virus. She also announced that as of Monday evening, 1,549 people were in Illinois hospitals for treatment for COVID-19. About 5,000 patients were being treated for COVID-19 in late April.

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