ILLINOIS (IRN) — As regions across the state adjust to added restrictions aimed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said more stringent policies will be put in place if positivity rates continue to climb.
On Wednesday, Pritzker will have ordered the entire state’s bar and restaurant industry to prohibit indoor service because of COVID-19.
Further mitigation could include prohibiting some retailers from indoor service.
Tier I of Phase 4 of the governor’s COVID-19 plan prohibits indoor service at bars and restaurants.
“Nothing we can do will immediately reduce the positivity rates or hospitalizations but our resurgence mitigations are designed to have an impact over several weeks as long as everyone takes some responsibility for making, social distancing and following the CDC and [Illinois Department of Public Health] guidelines,” Pritzker said Monday.
Some restaurants are staying open for indoor service despite the ban. More than 20 restaurants and bars in Springfield announced they’re staying open and have sued the governor.
“Based on prior court rulings, we and our attorneys believe the Governor lacks the authority to implement these restrictions,” The Corner Pub & Grill out of Springfield said on its Facebook page. “In addition, the Governor has presented no scientific evidence or data whatsoever, that restaurants are a source of the spread of COVID-19 anymore than any other type of business.”
The lawsuit filed Friday seeks a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. A hearing date has yet to be set.
East Peoria’s mayor said the city won’t be enforcing the mitigation.
“We will continue to support the rights of all members of the business community to remain open,” Mayor John Kahl said on Facebook. “The businesses of East Peoria have done their part throughout these challenging times and not a single one of them has been found by the Health Department to pose a risk to public health.”
Other communities also aren’t enforcing the governor’s orders, allowing bars and restaurants to operate with distancing and mask requirements.
State Rep. Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford, said businesses are staying open in his region with proper spacing and masks.
“And what we’ve seen is a large number of restaurants have continued to offer indoor dining and they have continued to do so safely with no issues of spread,” he said.
If Tier I mitigations don’t work, the governor’s plan calls for Tier II and Tier III mitigations, which are more restrictive. Tier II of Phase 4 includes prohibiting indoor service at nonessential businesses.
Sosnowski’s Rockford region is in Tier II. He said that under Tier II mitigations, the governor could suspend nonessential in-person shopping at retail stores, but that hadn’t been implemented as of Monday. Sosnowski said that option should be used.
“Two things, one we shouldn’t be telling any business they’re not essential,” Sosnowski said. “But No. 2, I hope we’re not going to continue to go down this draconian path of trying to close down businesses.”
Illinois Retail Merchants Association President and CEO Rob Karr said early on in the pandemic, there were too many unknowns. But things have changed.
“We have already communicated numerous times that there should be no distinction between essential and non-essential retail,” Karr said. “It was one thing early in the pandemic when nobody knew anything, but now we know better.”
“We know that a bookstore, an apparel store, a craft store, can operate at the same safety guidelines as for example a grocery store or a big box [store] so there’s no need to differentiate,” he said.
Karr said there’s no data indicating COVID-19 is less likely to be spread at a big box store that sells groceries than a clothing store or book store.
Tier III mitigations include suspending all non-essential retail along with salon and personal care operations and suspends elective surgeries and procedures. To reverse out of the tiers, the governor has said a region would have to reduce its positivity rate to 6.5 percent or lower.