Metro East under new bar and restaurant limits after COVID-19 cases surge

ILLINOIS GOV. JB Pritzker announced new bar, restaurant and public gathering restrictions for the Metro East region last week following a recent surge in coronavirus cases. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I have made it clear that neither arbitrary dates on a calendar nor political pressure will dictate Illinois’ efforts to protect our people,” Pritzker said. – Bill Greenblatt/UPI photo

Belleville IL – New restrictions that the Metro-East region came under last week are limiting access to restaurants and bars and limiting public gatherings to 25 people.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the restrictions after the region went three days straight with eight percent or higher positive COVID-19 tests and had averaged over eight percent for a week.

“If the data shows we need to go backwards in our re-opening, I won’t hesitate to tighten restrictions to protect our collective health,” Pritzker said.

The restrictions went into effect Aug. 18. They include:

  • Gatherings limited to 25 people or 25 percent of the room capacity. Reception halls and party buses are closed.
  • Closing time of 11 p.m. for bars, restaurants, casinos and gaming facilities, matching the time set in St. Louis.
  • Reservations required for indoor dining, with tables limited to six people or fewer, in part to maintain a record of who was present if someone tests positive.
  • Tables set six feet apart, and bar stools removed to discourage congregating. Bar patrons must be seated, either inside or outside.
  • If a restaurant has a bar, bar rules apply.
  • No indoor dancing.

The Metro-East is within Illinois Region 4, which became the first in the state out of 11 to go under the new restrictions. It includes Madison, St. Clair, Monroe, Randolph, Clinton, Washington and Bond counties.

“Region 4 is the first of the 11 regions to reach resurgence criteria, but we hope it will be the last,” said Dr. Ngoke Exike, director of the Department of Public Health.

“By implementing additional mitigations, such as decreased indoor capacities and limiting hours, we hope to reduce the spread of the virus in the Metro East and also help prevent an increase of cases, hospitalization and death in other regions of the state.”

The additional restrictions will be lifted if the positivity rate is 6.5 percent or less for two straight weeks. If the rate remains over eight percent for two weeks, additional restrictions will be considered, possibly including indoor bars and dining.

Pritzker said the new rules were developed in conjunction with local health and county officials.

St. Clair County Emergency Management Director Herb Simmons said the region had taken a step backwards. “We can get by with these rules, but if we continue to get increases, I can guarantee you that no one will be happy,” he said. “We’re in it for the long haul.”



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